By Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq.

Myth or Fact? It is acceptable to leave an inheritance directly to minors in your Will.

This is a MYTH!

In Massachusetts, a minor is defined as anyone who has yet to reach the age of majority, which is eighteen (18). A minor cannot inherit property in Massachusetts; a parent or guardian must claim the property on their behalf. Unless the Will explicitly allows for a parent or guardian to accept property on the minor’s behalf, a separate court action called a “Conservatorship” must be filed by the parent or guardian to properly accept and manage the property.

With a Conservatorship, the property management arrangement ends the day the minor turns eighteen (18). The brand-new adult can then make all management decisions over the property, including when withdrawals happen and how the funds are spent. Essentially this is handing a blank check to an eighteen (18) year old. Many kids, and, yes, they are still kids, cannot handle this responsibility and do not manage the money appropriately. They can also be more susceptible than a mature adult to coercion and manipulation regarding spending, gifting, and lending.

This can be avoided in a few different ways. First, making sure your Will contains the language allowing for parents or guardians to inherit on a minor’s behalf can alleviate the need for a Conservatorship proceeding. However, this does nothing to protect the assets past the minor’s eighteenth birthday. To protect the property past the age of 18, a trust must be established, either within your Will or within a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust. The latter is the preferred method as it means the least amount of probate court interference.

An elder law attorney, when either drafting or reviewing your estate plan, can counsel you on which method makes the most sense for you, your family situation, and the goals for your estate distribution.

Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq. is an attorney at Legacy Legal Planning, LLC, in Norwell, Massachusetts. She has been practicing estate planning, probate, and elder law on the South Shore for over a decade. If this article has sparked questions for you, please feel free to reach out via phone 781-971-5900 or email to schedule a time to discuss your unique situation.