Parents choose to leave an inheritance to their children for a number of reasons. They may want to make certain that their children are cared for if they are no longer present to support them, or they may wish to provide a solid financial foundation on which their children can build a bright future. Unfortunately, when it comes to an inheritance, not everyone is equipped to handle a windfall of cash — whether the amount is in the millions or thousands.
If you have a minor child and no will, or a will that has no age restrictions, in most states that child will receive their entire inheritance at age 18. Although this is the legal age, not many 18-year-olds are mature enough to responsibly manage a large inheritance. There have been many heartbreaking tales of parents who have failed to plan for their own death, resulting in a child receiving all of their inheritance at age 18 and spending it all in a few short years.
There is a misconception that when someone creates their will they have little choice but to leave their money to their adult (or minor) children outright. That’s not necessarily the case; parents can use a trust to hold funds back from their kids so that the money may be used for specific purposes.
You may stipulate that funds should be used for something specific — perhaps for medical care, college, or just for financial emergencies. Increasingly, parents want to keep the cash out of their childrens’ hands until they have reached a certain age and will be better able to manage these funds for their own benefit. The appropriate age depends on the beneficiary. You may want to consider how have they managed money in the past, or if there are any concerns about substance abuse or gambling. These questions and more should be considered when determining when (or if) the beneficiary should have ready access to funds from the trust you create. Of course, if your children are very young, you may not know how their money habits will develop. In this case, an older age may be most appropriate.
Although it is difficult to think about not being around for your family, if you have minor children or grandchildren under the age of 18, you should consider working with an estate planning lawyer to put a plan into place for your families’ own protection and well-being. The estate plan that you create when you are still alive will greatly affect and shape the course of their entire lives.