In this digital age, many minors under the age of 18 are amassing wealth from acting, modeling, sports, business ventures and even video gaming. By earning their own money, they may need to protect those assets from family members who try to take advantage of the familial relationship to access the funds. This can be especially problematic if these minors do not have a good relationship with one or more parents.
If a minor passes away, any assets earned and owned will be given to the parents through intestacy laws. If a minor does not want this to happen, what options are available to protect these earned assets? Unfortunately, it is not easy for a minor to disinherit his or her parents -- not easy, but not impossible.
Write a Letter of Intent
A minor cannot execute a will under the Maryland laws. In Maryland, a will is only valid if created by a person over the age of 18 who is of sound mind. This does not mean that a minor cannot write a letter of intent that states his or her wishes. In probate court, a judge could read and consider the terms indicated in a letter of intent, but there is no guarantee that those terms will be followed.
Create a Trust
A minor can create a trust, through his or her guardian, and fund the trust with certain assets. A trustee will be designated to manage those assets and follow any terms in the trust. The minor can decide who the beneficiaries will be if he or she passes away. The minor can list beneficiaries other than the parents in this manner. The issue with this strategy depends on the minor’s legal guardian. If the guardian is the parents and they do not consent to creating the trust, then more legal roadblocks need to be removed.
Use Payable-on-Death Accounts (PODS)
The minor can also open bank accounts (usually starting at age 13) at certain financial institutions. The bank account can be created as a payable-on-death (POD) account and a beneficiary can be listed as the person who receives all the funds in the account at the time the minor dies.
Use Retirement Accounts with Beneficiary Designations
Minors also have the option to invest in a Roth or traditional IRA and choose the beneficiary of the retirement account. There are contribution limits to retirement accounts so this will not be an option for large sums of money.
Create a College Fund
Minors can create a college fund with beneficiary designations. These are very specific accounts and the money has to be used in certain ways. The minor will lose access to the funds for any other purpose than those stated on the fund.
With the increase in minors earning money and amassing wealth, the estate planning laws need to evolve to offer more protection and options. If you or a minor in your care has these concerns, reach out to the knowledgeable estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area. We can help you devise a plan to protect assets and ensure they are not in jeopardy of going to someone that the minor does not intend. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below: