Leaving an Estate to Minor Children in Connecticut

By Tom Streissguth

Connecticut probate law allows you to leave property to anyone, including minor children. However, a minor child won't be able to control the assets she inherits until she is 18. A custodian must handle the inherited money or property on behalf of the minor until the child reaches adulthood. Similarly, if you place assets in a trust for the benefit of a minor child, a trustee will control the assets until the child comes of age.

Naming a Custodian

You may leave property for the heirs of your choosing; there is no minimum age for inheriting property. If you are drawing up a will in Connecticut -- where the age of majority is 18 -- the state's probate law allows you to choose a custodian for a minor and for any property you're leaving to the minor. State law sets out very specific language that you must include in your will when naming custodian. It's a good idea to consult a local attorney or use an online legal document provider to ensure that your will contains the necessary and appropriate language. You may also nominate a substitute custodian, who will receive the minor's property in case the first custodian dies, resigns or is unable to carry out the terms of the will.

Custodians and Transfers

If you leave property to a minor child in your will, but you don't name a custodian, Connecticut law allows the executor you name in the will to choose one. This could be the child's parent or guardian, a relative, trusted friend, or an attorney or financial adviser who is capable of handling the assets on behalf of the minor. Connecticut law gives a custodian or guardian the right to transfer assets to another adult or to a trust company for the benefit of the minor, but the probate court must approve all such transfers that exceed $5,000.

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Trusts for Minors

You also have the option of drawing up a trust, a useful and central item in many estate plans. When you create a trust, you appoint a trustee to manage the assets for the beneficiaries you name in the trust document. A valid trust allows your heirs to receive property without the delay and costs of probate court, although a trust will not avoid federal and Connecticut estate taxes. There are different types of trusts that are specifically designed to serve minors who inherit property. A "spendthrift" trust, for example, allows a trustee to control distributions to a child who may be financially irresponsible, while a "special needs" trust provides medical care and other needs for a child with a disability.

Intestate Succession

If you die without a will, which is known as dying "intestate," your estate is distributed according to Connecticut “intestate succession” laws, which provide that if you have a spouse and children, your spouse is entitled to the first $100,000 of your estate and half the remainder, while the children inherit the remaining portion. However, if you have a spouse and at least one child who is not the natural child of that spouse, then the estate is divided 50-50 between your spouse and all your children. If you don't have a spouse and you have not appointed a custodian or guardian, the court will appoint one to handle the assets passing to any minor children.

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