The primary job of an estate executor, also called a personal representative, is to gather a decedent's assets for distribution to heirs. An executor must complete asset distribution to heirs in an honest manner and within a reasonable time. Turning over inheritance assets to minor children, however, raises extra responsibilities and considerations for executors.
Minors and Inheritances
Generally, the law does not allow minors to directly receive inheritances. An estate executor has a responsibility to distribute a minor's inheritance to a person or entity called a fiduciary. A fiduciary acts in the child's best financial interests by managing the inheritance. An executor has a responsibility to convey the inheritance to the child's fiduciary as soon as court fees and estate bills paid and proper probate notices are made. An executor must also list all property he has transferred to the fiduciary on an accounting form filed with the probate court.
A will that bequeaths an inheritance to a minor usually appoints a conservator to hold the child's assets until he reaches adulthood. A conservator is one type of fiduciary used to manage a child's property. The executor has a responsibility to turn over the child's inheritance to the minor's conservator for safekeeping and investment planning. An executor further has a responsibility to fully cooperate with the conservator in completing the child's inheritance transfers.
A minor may also inherit assets from a person who fails to leave a will appointing a conservator. An estate that has no governing will is called an intestate estate. If a minor inherits intestate estate property, the executor must request that the probate court appoint a conservator to receive the child's assets. Once a court-appointed conservator is in place, the executor must fulfill his responsibility to turn over the child's inheritance into the custody of the conservator.
Some wills call for the creation of a trust to hold a minor's inheritance. Trusts established after death through wills are referred to as testamentary trusts. An executor who administers a will that includes a testamentary trust for minors must set up the trust and convey the minor's inheritance to the trust's appointed trustee.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.