As you begin the process of administering your loved one’s estate or trust in Orange County, you may discover that one or more of the beneficiaries is legally a minor. Your loved one may have passed away unexpectedly, or they may simply have overlooked taking into account the age of the beneficiary when creating their estate plan and need to consider minors and inheritances. Under California law, minors are not permitted to inherit assets outright.
So what happens in cases involving minors and inheritances? The following is a helpful overview.
- A guardian of the minor’s estate will need to be appointed.
Obtaining a guardianship appointment over a minor is not always easy. A petition must be filed with the correct probate court. The guardian may also be required to appoint a bond.
- Parents are not automatically deemed guardians.
Many parents incorrectly assume that since the beneficiary is their child, they are automatically considered guardians of the child’s estate. This is not always the case, however. Guardians may be named in the will of the person who passed away. If there was no will or no guardian was named, someone will have to be appointed by the courts.
- Large inheritances may require a separate guardian other than a parent.
In cases where a child inherits property worth more than $20,000, the court will generally require that someone other than the parent living with the child be appointed guardian. If the inheritance is smaller than $20,000, you may be able to have the property held under a custodianship instead.
- Guardianships must remain in place until a child turns 18.
In some cases, however, you may be able to demonstrate that the child has reached a maturity level where she is capable of managing her own estate. In these cases, a judge may permit the guardianship to be terminated before the child reaches age 18.
If you are the executor of an estate or the trustee of a trust and are required to distribute an inheritance to a minor, it is imperative that you seek the guidance of an experienced Orange County probate attorney. Making an improper distribution could subject you to potential liability. To learn more about guardianship appointments, call our office today at (714) 459-5481 for a consultation.