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Guardianship of a Minor: What You Need to Know about This Critical Area of Law

Guardianship of a Minor

Guardianships do not only pertain to people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or have special needs. In the state of Florida, a person under 18 years of age is also considered incapacitated—here is what you need to know if you need to obtain guardianship of a minor.

Guardianship of the Person and Property

If a minor’s parents pass away or become incapacitated, a minor does not have the capacity to manage their own finances or healthcare decisions. That is why the courts must appoint them a guardian. Guardianship of the person means that a guardian can make personal decisions for a minor, such as healthcare choices. Guardianship of the property means that a guardian is entitled to manage a minor’s financial assets in a responsible manner. In these cases, guardians will typically be responsible for both.

Managing Large Assets

In Florida, if a minor receives a sum of money from an inheritance, a settlement, a lawsuit, or other proceeding that is $15,000 or more, that money needs to be deposited into a court-restricted account. A Guardianship proceeding must commence to appoint a guardian of the property (not a guardian of the person). The minor’s funds will remain under that guardianship until they reach the age of 18.

If the minor receives less than $15,000, the funds will be managed by the child’s natural guardians, who are typically their parents. In this case, the family will be able to avoid a guardianship proceeding.

While the child is under 18, their guardian may request that an attorney petition the court to use those funds for the maintenance, education, health, and support of the child. Generally, judges are not inclined to grant petitions to use the child’s money for obligations the parents should be fulfilling from their own money. The attorney for the guardian is also entitled to be paid fees from those guardianship funds. Judges will typically make their best efforts to protect those funds and ensure guardians are being fiscally responsible with the minor’s funds.

What Happens Once a Minor Turns 18?

Another estate planning issue arises once the minor turns 18. Although the law considers someone over 18 an adult, not all people mature the same or have a sufficient understanding of finances. An 18 year old might think a Ferrari is a better investment than a college prepaid plan or life insurance policy.

Before they turn 18, you may consider designating yourself or another individual as a Financial Power of Attorney. This document will allow you to make responsible financial decisions on behalf of your child or ward after they become of legal age.

Another option is to create a trust to hold those funds. In this situation, you would appoint a trustee (and any backup trustees) to manage these assets.

Discuss Your Options with an Estate Planning Attorney

To protect your child, it is important that you plan ahead. Not only should you appoint a guardianship of the person and property in the case that you pass away unexpectedly, but you should also make decisions to help your child manage their estate responsibly. It is important to discuss these options with an estate planning attorney to protect a child’s assets and allow them to continue to grow.

To speak to an experienced estate planning attorney today, call (305) 306-2534 or reach us online.