How To Leave Assets to a Minor

If you want to benefit a young person with your Estate Legal Program, don't ever allow them to inherit in their own name.

For example, let's say you have life insurance and a 401(k), and you live in Louisiana. On the beneficiary designation forms, you name your spouse as your primary beneficiary (if you are married), and you name your minor children as your contingent (or secondary) beneficiaries.

If an account owner dies and proceeds are to go a minor, then the financial institution will refuse to pay the minor. So, someone will have to petition the court to be appointed as the guardian (known in Louisiana as the "tutor") of the minor.

Then, once those court orders are issued, the financial institution will pay the funds to the tutor on behalf of the minor. The tutor must report to the court an accounting annually of how the tutor handled the minor's funds. If the tutor wants or needs to spend any of the minor's funds on behalf of the minor, the tutor must get a judge to approve the expenditure.

Then, on the minor's 18th birthday, the tutor must dump all of the funds into the lap of the 18 year old.

Folks who want to avoid all of this bureaucracy and preserve what they leave to young children or grandchildren will make sure they leave the assets in a trust for the young folks. You would name a trustee of the trust and you would dictate when and under what terms your child or grandchild may get or use the funds.

For example, divorced Dad names a trust for his minor children to receive his life insurance when he dies. Dad names his sister as the trustee. Dad says in his trust instrument that the trustee may use the trust assets for the health, education, maintenance, and support of the child, and Dad further provided that the child can get 1/3 of the trust assets when the child reaches the age of 25; one-half of what's left at 30; and the remainder at 35.

By setting all of this up correctly, Dad further ensures that any inheritance he leaves for his family will be used at the right times for the right reasons with the right people in charge.