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

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

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

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Until a person reaches the age of adulthood—18 in most states—they cannot legally inherit any money, property, or other assets from a trust or a will. If you want to allow a minor to access your money while they are underage, you do have certain legal options. You can also set the age of inheritance to be a specific age older than 18. Be sure to include any stipulations in the language itself.

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Basics of a Trust

In general, someone creates a trust, transfers any desired assets into it, and names a third party (referred to as the trustee) to manage the assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. Typically, it will be created during someone's lifetime. A testamentary trust, on the other hand, is one created in a person's will that does not take effect until the person dies. They are often used when a person wants to retain ownership of their assets until they die, rather than transferring ownership while they are alive. Therefore, it will remain in the will and won't take effect until after the person dies, at which point the executor will handle the probate process and distribute assets according to the terms of the testamentary document, in conjunction with the will.

If a minor child is the beneficiary, you can place conditions that allow the trustee to provide for the minor until they reach adulthood. For example, the language can order that person to distribute money to the minor so they can pay for their health, education, or other needs.

You can also place conditions that keep the beneficiary from inheriting assets at the age of 18. For example, the trust itself can stipulate that the beneficiary is not to receive any money until a certain event takes place or until they reach a certain age. It can also stipulate that the beneficiary receive money at certain intervals (e.g., a monthly or annual basis) rather than through a lump sum payment.

Duties of a Trustee

The testamentary trust should include the name of an individual or entity that will act as a trustee. This can be a family member, close friend, a professional such as a lawyer or accountant, or an entity such as a bank or other financial institution. Once the desired person or business accepts the position, they take on a fiduciary duty to the beneficiary. This means that they must act in the best interest of the beneficiary (as well as the person who created it) or risk removal from the position. They also risk personal liability for any wrongdoing. If a beneficiary is underage, the trustee manages the assets until either the beneficiary reaches adulthood or the age stipulated in the document.

Both trusts and wills are estate planning tools that allow a person to transfer their personal belongings and other assets to designated beneficiaries upon their death. These are both great ways to ensure your minor child receives care after your death. Planning your estate can be complex, so be sure that you fully understand the rules in your respective state when drafting such documentation.

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