Leaving an Estate to a Minor: What You Need to Know

As an attorney practicing in Seattle, Washington, I often counsel clients on the complexities of estate planning, especially when it involves leaving assets to minors. In this blog, I want to address some important considerations regarding leaving an estate to a minor, including legal implications, strategies, and best practices.

Can a Minor Inherit Property?

Under Washington state law, minors are deemed incompetent to inherit property directly. Instead, if a minor is designated as a beneficiary, and depending on the size of the inheritance for the minor, a court process, called a minor guardianship, will be necessary to receive and manage those funds on behalf of the minor. This process can be time-consuming, expensive, and may not align with your intentions for your assets.

How to Leave Your Estate to a Minor:

To avoid the complications of guardianship and ensure your assets are managed according to your wishes, there are alternative strategies available:

  1. Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA): UTMA allows you to designate a custodian to manage assets on behalf of a minor until they reach the age of majority (at least 18, or a later age can be picked). Once the minor reaches the specified age, the funds are distributed to them outright.
  1. Trust for Minors: Establishing a trust for a minor allows you to appoint a trustee to manage assets on behalf of the minor according to your instructions. You can specify conditions for asset distribution, such as reaching a certain age or milestone, which will help to ensure responsible management of the inheritance.

At What Age Should You Leave Inheritance to Your Child?

While minors can legally inherit at the age of 18, it’s not advisable to leave a lump sum inheritance at such a young age. Instead, consider delaying distribution until the minor reaches a more mature age, such as 22, 25, or later. Alternatively, you may stagger distributions over time or tie them to specific milestones, such as completing higher education or reaching a certain age.

Why You Shouldn’t Name a Minor as a Beneficiary

Naming a minor as a direct beneficiary in your estate plan can lead to complications and potential conflicts. Since minors are incompetent to inherit under Washington state law, using UTMA or a trust for minors provides a structured and legally sound approach to manage assets on their behalf.

When planning your estate, it’s essential to consider the implications of leaving assets to minors and to utilize appropriate legal mechanisms, such as UTMA or trusts, to ensure your intentions are carried out effectively. 

If you have questions or need assistance with estate planning, don’t hesitate to reach out to our firm at (206) 408-8158.

You can also learn more about our estate planning services by visiting our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@dallawfirm

Contact us:

19803 1st Avenue S.
Suite 200
Normandy Park, WA 98148

T (206) 408-8158
F (206) 374-2810

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