Legal Minority vs. Youthful Immaturity in Estate Planning

Legal Minority: Inability to Own and Control Property.

Individuals under the age of eighteen cannot own property and cannot undertake many of the tasks associated with property ownership.  Regardless of the very obvious concerns of actual maturity and experience, this legal limitation of minority creates very apparent hurdles for families with younger children.

In the event that property is transferred to children as part of an estate plan, without further clarification or planning, a court-appointed conservator would be designated to hold the property.  While this indeed offers some actual protection to the child’s eventual legal right to the property, it creates some very difficult and problematic issues with respect to control and desired use of the relevant property.

Immaturity: Sometimes the Bigger Issue

In addition to the legal incapacity of a minor child to own and control property, there are very practical concerns with a young person’s lack of experience and their likely financial, emotional and social immaturity.

Where proper planning has not occurred, a probate conservatorship would be created, as discussed above.  However, once the youngster reaches the ripe age of eighteen years, they will actually get the property—perhaps an even worse outcome than the conservatorship.  This generates numerous concerns due to the child’s general immaturity, their likely susceptibility to undue influences and their station on life.  Many children of this age are yet to even graduate from high school, much less prepared to prudently use any amount of significant money or property.