You may be willing to trust your teenage grandchildren to house sit for you while you’re away for the weekend, but would you trust them to properly manage your entire bank account after you die?
Paris and Nicky Hilton, heiresses to the Hilton Hotel fortune, are notorious for their party-girl ways. DUI charges and driving violations landed Paris in jail at the age of 25, and Nicky has a reputation for drifting in and out of relationships with potentially opportunistic suitors. Neither has yet shown the maturity necessary to manage the Hilton’s billions should they take over any substantial part of estate today – much less so had they inherited at the age of 18.
Generally, if you decide to leave an inheritance in trust, the account can provide for the minor’s health, education and maintenance through a custodian (living parent or appointed conservator) until he or she becomes an adult. However, once he or she reaches majority, the remainder of the account is discharged to them outright.
You also have the option to hold a minor beneficiary’s inheritance in a trust to be paid out in stages or based on milestones. For example, you could pay a beneficiary 50 percent of his inheritance when he reaches the age of 25 and the remainder at 30; or, 50 percent when he gets his bachelor’s degree and 50 percent when he gets his master’s degree. Again, though, once the beneficiary receives a lump sum free of trust, that property is vulnerable to bad decisions, lawsuits, and divorcing spouses (only if transformed into community property in California).
There is also the option of leaving the minor’s inheritance in a lifetime trust. The assets are managed indefinitely by a trustee or until a designated time when the beneficiary may take full control.The inheritance is protected from divorcing spouses, lawsuits, and if a third-party trustee is used, from the beneficiary’s own bad decisions. If there is anything left in the trust when the beneficiary dies, you can control who will receive the remainder.
There are added costs that come with the administration of a lifetime trust, including accounting and legal fees. And the trustee may be entitled to receive a fee for services rendered while administering the trust. These costs must be weighed against the amount of inheritance and your own long-term estate planning goals when drawing up your will.
Keep in mind, though that some people will never be able to handle money properly, due to disability or character flaw. Some clients struggle with how much control they can or should have from beyond the grave, but only you can determine how much weight, if any, to give such considerations.
You may not be a Hilton, but careful planning in advance can make for a smooth transfer of property.