Property Left to Young Children

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Arranging Property and Assets Left to Children Upon Die?

Your children will not be able to control any property or assets you leave to them in a will until they have reached the age of adulthood in the state you live in. However, you shouldn't wait to arrange a will or trust that includes your children. If you do not create a will or trust, your property will be distributed to your children according to your state's statutes that deal with property distribution. These laws are not always in accordance with what you intended.

How Should I Arrange to Leave Property or Money to My Children?

There are actually several common ways of making sure your children will inherit your possessions once you have died:

What About Real Estate?

There are usually two options when trying to give ownership of real estate to others upon death. The first way is by directly stating so through a will. Be sure to name the children and the exact address of the house. The second way is by adding the children’s name to the deed of the house and presenting it to them as a gift. Keep in mind that when giving the house as a gift, the deed must be presented to the children in person and the gift may be subject to gift taxes by the IRS.

In most states, minors cannot own real estate. As such, a guardian or trust must be appointed or created to ensure that your children can retain use of the property until they reach the age of adulthood, typically eighteen.

What Happens If One of My Children Is An Adult But My Other Children Are Still Minors?

The answer will vary state by state, as some states forbid minor children from directly inheriting property while other states require that adult children be specifically named in a will to inherit anything.

If you trust your adult child not to sell property and to maintain the property for the benefit of his or her younger siblings, you could appoint your adult child as the property guardian or trustee to manage the property on the behalf of all your children. 

How Do I Include Step or Foster Children In My Estate?

In most states, step or foster children are automatically excluded from being included in the deceased’s estate unless the step or foster parent takes specific steps to ensure that the step or foster children are included. 

The most popular way to ensure that step or foster children will inherit from an estate is for the step or foster parent to formally adopt the child. Adoption usually puts the adopted child in the same legal standing as natural children when inheritance is an issue.

In some states though, even adoption isn’t enough. To absolutely ensure that step or foster children will be able to inherit from your state, you should specifically name your step or foster children in your will and exactly what it is you intend for the step or foster child to inherit or share with your natural born children.

Should I Consult an Attorney When Creating a Will or Trust?

Deciding which type of will or trust would be best for passing on your belongings to your children can be difficult and complex. An attorney who has experience in estate planning can help you make decisions, and inform you of all the legal formalities and tax implications.

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Last Modified: 10-18-2012 03:31 PM PDT

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