View Full Version : Legal help: 16 year old with family murdered

08-06-2008, 03:28 AM
Ok, this is my first post here. I'm a Brazilian author, self-published my first book back in 2006 and need a little bit of legal feedback to help me unravel a sequel.

A 16 year old boy who's parents disappeared (actually murdered but no one other then the boy knows) was for several years since the "abandonment" raised by his aunt and uncle both recently murdered as well (uncle's body in bedroom and aunt went "missing", police suspect her of having killed the husband - true - and are looking for her. My question is what happens to the boy? His parents owned the house that he lived in with his aunt and uncle and also there must me money in the bank and such, does he have access to this straightaway or is it safe kept for him until he reaches legal age? If safe kept, is it by the courts since the boy has no other living relative? And, the most important question, can he live on his own? Make decisions like dropping out of school, changing states...?

(This story is set in the USA, no state was actually mentioned in the original novelette)

08-06-2008, 03:40 AM
I'm certainly no expert, but he would first probably be taken into custody by the state agency changed with caring for minors when there is no parents or legal guardians. Those state agencies go by different name in different states; where I live it's called the Department of Human Services.

If the kid is sixteen he might be able to petition the courts to allow him to be considered an adult (it's called "being emancipated"). There would have to be reasons for the court to grant such a petition. They wouldn't consider it for a twelve-year-old, but they might for a sixteen-year-old who shows maturity and the ability to take care of himself. They might very well demand that he remain in school.

Just some thoughts on the subject. Someone else will probably have more experience with the issue.

08-06-2008, 03:51 AM
Thank you for your help, the first part of the story the character shared my view and did not know what would happen, but in the sequel this part of the story must be taken care of. I think the emancipation might be the solution, but am going to wait on more information to know exactly how to proceed.


Also the boy was scared about this so he lied when asked his age in order to seem older, but of course would eventually be found out.

08-06-2008, 03:56 AM
This breaks down to two separate yet intertwined issues:

Issue 1: Custody: If no relatives of majority age can be found (ie over 18) then he goes into the foster system until he's 18.

Issue 2: Money: Normally, even if with guardians, the money would be held until he was 18, earning interest (in some cases, his guardians cantap that interest but not the capital itself). If he was a direct heir, the house (asssuming no mortgage was due) would be held in trust as well (if there's a mortgage stuation, then payments would be due or foreclosure would proceed).

Emancipation (which requires showing that the kid not only has the maturity to make his own decisions, but some sort of income (which looks would apply here)) should be an easy step here.

Also: I'm thinking someone is keeping an eye on the kid down at police HQ. Not only did his parents die, but so did his uncle, and no one can find the aunt? And the kid was near both places when it happened? Interesting....


08-06-2008, 04:25 AM
The exact legal process and the names of the agencies will vary from state to state. If the details are important to you, you're going to have to name a state so that those in the know can help you.

08-06-2008, 04:29 AM
FinbarReilly - So with emancipation he escapes the foster system and has direct access to his families estate, right?

As for main plot - the kid was, can't find if i specifically mentioned age, but was about 5 when his parents were killed by his aunt and uncle, the uncle was killed by the aunt and left physical evidence of this, i suppose you could say the boy killed the aunt (but to the world she will always be missing). Not going in to the major plot details here, but I agree police will be alarmed, and thats the main reason I need to know if he can escape foster system when they return to his house, presumably the very next day to the murder, with his real age. The character definitely will be mature enough and have financial stability, but will the courts determine he remains in school?

WriteKnight - If I had to name a state I would say NY, but the agencies names and such are not the main aspect I'm looking for, just if he can or cant escape foster system and if he will have access to the money (the actual process doesn't have to be described in detail because of the length of the story: novelette and the nature of it is more supernatural oriented then crime/law oriented.

08-06-2008, 09:50 AM
Basically, yeah. At least, that's how it usually happens...


08-06-2008, 05:46 PM
In NY, the courts would appoint a guardian for the estate and he would receive an allowance from that.
Child protective services would appoint a guardian for him. At age 16, his foster parents MIGHT alow him to run free, but this is doubtful. If they are just interested in the money they would receive for his care, then yes, he could run free. The money would be doled out monthly until he is 21.