What Age Do You Need to Be to Inherit a Trust From a Will?

By Heather Frances J.D.

People cannot legally inherit money or other property from you until they reach the age of adulthood. You can, however, provide ways for a minor to have access to some of the money while she is underage to provide for her needs; later, when she is older, she can inherit outright. Your will or trust can also set a specific age for your beneficiary to take control of the assets -- for example, if your trust documents say that your beneficiary must wait until age 30 to inherit, that becomes the age she needs to be to inherit. Setting up a trust in your will is one way to safeguard a minor's inheritance.

Testamentary Trusts

Trusts are legal entities in which property or funds are placed under the care of a manager, or trustee, who manages the trust’s property for the benefit of another person, such as your minor child. A testamentary trust is one created in your will, rather than during your lifetime. Testamentary trusts are useful if you want to create a trust that only takes effect after your death. You can attach conditions to your trust to govern how and when the money is to be paid to your child.

Inheritance Age

If your child has not reached legal adulthood -- usually age 18 -- at the time of your death, he cannot inherit your assets outright until he is old enough. But you can include language in your trust that keeps a child from inheriting property even after reaching adulthood. For example, your will could state that a child cannot receive the assets held in trust until she reaches a particular age, such as 25 or 30.

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Your testamentary trust should name a trustee as part of the language that creates the trust. The trustee can be an individual or a financial institution such as a bank. The trustee you choose may not accept the appointment, so you may also name an alternate trustee in case your first choice does not work out. If you do not name a trustee to manage your child's inheritance in your will, the court will appoint one. The trustee owes fiduciary duties to your child, meaning he must act in the best interests of the child and the trust, rather than acting in his own interest when managing the trust’s assets.

Uses for Trust Funds

Assets you place in the trust remain there until your child reaches the age of legal adulthood or the age you designated, but you can allow your child to receive some money from the trust even before reaching that age. Frequently, testamentary trusts for minor children instruct the trustee to distribute money to the child or her guardian for the child’s health, education, maintenance and support. Such distributions can provide money for the guardian to use to provide for your child’s care or to pay tuition without giving the child or the guardian total access to the property. Once your child reaches the age set in your will, she inherits all assets remaining in the trust and can do whatever she wishes with those assets.

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Legal Age to Inherit


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Children's Rights in Estate Wills

Your state’s laws determine who inherits your assets if you don’t have a valid will when you die; your spouse and children are among the first to receive property from your estate. However, you can change this “default” distribution scheme by creating a will describing how you want your property to be distributed. Your will can give inheritance rights to your children, though you cannot disinherit your spouse under most circumstances, even if you want to give his share to your children.

How to Leave Money in a Will to Grandchildren for Education

When you bequeath property in a will to someone, she obtains total ownership over the property. While you may suggest in the will how you wish the property to be used by the recipient, once the probate process is closed, that person is not bound to follow your instructions. By creating a testamentary trust in your will, you can place restrictions on how the property you leave behind is to be used, which your beneficiaries must follow. This can be especially useful if you want to provide money for your grandchildren’s education, but want to ensure they don’t use those assets for something else.

Advantages of Trust Funds for Children

Establishing a trust fund for your minor children is a way of passing money to them that differs from handing them a gift of money during your life -- or leaving them the money outright in your will. Trust funds enable you to have greater control over how and when the money is disbursed to your child -- and it may also save on taxes and probate costs.

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