View Full Version : question about underage inheritors

01-06-2014, 12:40 AM
First, thanks for taking the time to answer. I really appreciate this subforum, it helped me a lot.

Here's the question. I don't actually need an extra realistic answer, because the story is adventure-like, not a law thriller or something. But I need it to be believable.

So my main character is one of beneficiaries of her late father's considerable possessions. But there is a condition in the will which she must fulfill in order to receive the inheritance. Let's say she must spend a year in Paris--starting next month. Legal stuff. But the main character is a teenager.

Is it possible to do that in your will? I know "the Jewish clause" (as in "if you do this or that at any point during the rest of your life, no moneyz for you anymore") is questionable and such a condition can be deemed invalid, but what about "you must do X before you get the money"? Does her being underage complicate it, requiring a legal guardian for all the proceedings?

01-06-2014, 01:24 AM
Anything a minor receives from an estate is placed into a trust until the minor achieves majority. In the US, that is 18.

A condition in a will is enforceable if the condition is reasonable and consistent with public policy.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

01-06-2014, 02:50 AM
As JCD put it, it's held in trust until the heiress reaches age of majority.

I guess my question would be, why not make her legal age? Travel for under-18s can be a pain too if they're crossing any international borders and have to go through customs somewhere.

01-06-2014, 02:52 AM
So this is definitely in America?

01-06-2014, 06:47 AM
And does it take place in the 21st century?

01-06-2014, 07:14 AM
I read your post a bit more carefully.

If the parent has "considerable possessions" and a will, this implies that the parent has done some consulting with an attorney prior to his or her death. Now "considerable possessions" implies a certain risk of taxes, which makes estate planning a bit more complicated. Sheltering money from estate taxes can be very beneficial, so you do a lot of work on those sorts of issues (which probably aren't important to your story).

However, normally a parent establishes a trust in the will for the benefit of the child. This gives the parent control of who the trustee will be (frequently the guardian -- another issue that would have been dealt with in the will). But it also gives the parent control over how long the trust lasts. I'd normally set up the trust to last until the child is 25, although there is no hard and fast rule on this. (Different attorneys and different parents can have other ages that they feel are appropriate.)

So parent sets up a will with the remainder of their estate going into a trust for the benefit of their child. The trustee can use interest and principal to provide support for the child until the child reaches the age of 25, when the trust ends. This is a normal provision of a trust and will be supported by the judge.

If the parent adds that the child, should the child do some specific act, is entitled to a certain amount of the principal prior to the age of 25, that condition would almost always be enforceable. If it were not enforceable, then the child would have to wait until age 25, whether or not the child does the specified act.

If you lost me here, let me know where and I'll see if I can clarify this.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Russell Secord
01-07-2014, 03:59 AM
To address the part about the guardian, that's up to the parent. Often the parent names someone to take care of the child until she is 18 and can (presumably) take care of herself. If the parent has made no such provision in the will, a judge can appoint someone from the surviving family members, usually the closest relative.

In this case, with a special condition attached, the parent may name some other type of guardian. It might be the lawyer or someone with a vested interest in the special condition. For instance, if the condition is, "Marcy must intern at Action Motor Supply for one year," and the parent was a partner in the business, the special guardian could very well be the other partner. It depends on the condition and on the guardian, but the parent would want someone who could verify that the condition was indeed being fulfilled.

For extra fun, give this special guardian a power of attorney where the minor is concerned. He will have access to and control over her money and other affairs, and there's nothing she can do if he chooses to abuse that power.

01-08-2014, 01:27 AM
In the UK a trustee will be appointed to handle the estate until the child reaches at least 18 (although you can specify an older age) and can legally inherit it. A trustee can, under certain circumstances, arrange for a portion of the estate to be transferred to the child before they turn 18, but there must be a clear need for it.

To note as well - if you are leaving a considerable amount behind then it will go through probate first - which can take a long time. And even then you won't actually own anything until you pay the inheritance tax due on it. Inheritance tax over here is paid on any estate over 325,000 and is 40% of the vale over that amount. So, for instance, if you leave your child a 1million then they will have to pay 270,000 in tax out of your own pocket first as the deceased estate cannot pay the inheritance tax - so if you got a house then you can't sell the house to pay the tax, you need to pony up yourself. That can also cause a lot of delays and problems.