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Can minors receive an inheritance?


When a person dies, their heirs or beneficiaries may be a minor. A minor is any individual who is younger than 18. However, minors are unable to open a bank account on their own. They are unable to enter into legally binding contracts. Additionally, they are still growing, maturing, and may have not concept of how to manage money for the long term. Therefore, Illinois probate law provides protections for minors who receive inheritances.

Children and Teenagers

In general, if a minor is to receive and inheritance, the deceased person’s will or trust will dictate how the minor will receive the inheritance. For example, a will or trust may state that the inheritance may be distributed directly to the minor’s parent. Or, the will or trust may require that the inheritance be given to a court appointed guardian for the minor. As you consider the terms of your will and trust, you must consider the possibility that a minor will receive an inheritance, even if you do not currently have any younger relatives.

When a person dies without a will or a trust, Illinois law specifies how a minor’s inheritance is to be distributed. If the minor receives an inheritance of over $11,000, a guardianship estate for the minor will need to be opened. A guardian will be appointed to ensure that the money is properly transferred to the minor. With a judge’s permission, the guardian may elect to transfer the funds into a special minor’s bank account. This bank account must have rules preventing any withdrawal of the funds until the child is 18 years old.

Young Adults

Although they are not children, many 18 year olds are still in high school. The law recognizes them as adults. As a result, when an 18-year-old receives an inheritance, they will receive the funds directly from the executor or the administrator of an estate. This general rule may be changed through the terms of a will or the creation of a trust. Many families wish that the young adults in their lives will not receive an inheritance until they finish college. As you consider your estate plan, you and your family should discuss your goals and wishes. An attorney can also help you think about options than those presented in this article.

If you are interested in learning more about protecting a child or a young adult’s inheritance, please contact one of our attorneys to discuss your goals. We provide a free thirty (30) minute consultation to discuss your estate planning options.