Many people want to leave their grandchildren something when they pass away. It may be small or it may be significant. There are several ways to do this, some better than others. When you draft your estate plan, you have no way of knowing whether some of your beneficiaries are going to be minors at the time you die. You have to plan for the possibility that some may be minors.
1. Outright Gift. You can simply provide in your will that a dollar amount or a percentage of your estate will go to a grandchild but this leads to problems if the recepient is a minor. Substantial amounts of money being inherited by a minor may cause a court-supervised guardianship of the estate of the minor until he or she is 18. Then at 18, the entire inheritance is handed over to the now adult, but still 18 year old, with no limitations attached.
2. Custodial Accounts. One way you can leave money to minors is in an account under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act ( a UTMA account). This works well for small amounts of money. The account has a custodian who has the power to withdraw funds for the health, education, and maintenance of the minor. Once the child reaches the age you specify (In California it can be as old as 25), the child has full access to the funds.
3. Minor’s Trusts. Another option for leaving money to minor beneficiaries is to set up a minor’s trust. This is a trust customized to fit your situation and fulfill your wishes. You have infinite possibilities. You can put limitations on what the trustee can use the assets for such as for medical expenses, education, a home, car, etc. You can provide for the intervals at which you want the child or grandchild to receive distributions. As an example, one method would be 1/4 at age 18, 1/4 at age 25, 1/2 at age 30, and the balance at 35. The disadvantage of a trust is that there are costs of administering the trust during the time it is in existence. An experienced estate planner can help you weigh the benefits against the costs and expenses associated with administering the trust.
4. Educational Savings Plans. If your goal is to help your grandchildren with their education, there are many tax-favored college savings accounts, also called 529 Plans, Cloverdale Plans, or educational IRAs. The earning are not usually taxed as long as they are used for education. If the beneficiary does not go to college, however, the funds will have to go to another beneficiary.
Other ways to help your grandchildren out is to pay their education expenses directly while you are alive. You must however write the checks out to the school, not the individual. Savings bonds also work well since they are purchased at half the face value.
Contact us at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation if we can help you in deciding how best to include your grandchildren in your estate plan.