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Can A Minor Inherit From an Estate in Texas?

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A minor can inherit from an estate in Texas.  However, a minor cannot directly hold or receive the inheritance until the child reaches the age of majority.

What is The Definition of “Minor” Under Texas Law?

In Texas, a minor is defined as follows:

“Minor” means a person younger than 18 years of age who:

(1) has never been married; and

(2) has not had the disabilities of minority removed for general purposes.

See Tex. Estates Code § 22.022; 1002.019.

This means that if a minor in Texas is the beneficiary of an estate, or the named beneficiary on an account, a guardian will need to be appointed to manage the money until the minor turns 18.

What Is a Guardianship Of a Minor In Texas?

A guardianship is a court-supervised legal relationship.  The guardian is appointed to act on behalf of a ward (in this case, the minor).

The guardian will hold and administer the minor ward’s property.   This type of guardianship is called a guardianship of the estate.

Who Serves as The Guardian of the Minor’s Inherited Property?

Pursuant to section 1104.051 of the Texas Estates Code the entitlement to be appointed guardian of a minor’s estate is as follows:

(a)  If the parents live together, both parents are the natural guardians of the person of the minor children by the marriage, and one of the parents is entitled to be appointed guardian of the children’s estates.  If the parents disagree as to which parent should be appointed, the court shall make the appointment on the basis of which parent is better qualified to serve in that capacity.

(b)  The rights of parents who do not live together are equal.  The court shall assign the guardianship of their minor children to one parent considering only the best interests of the children.

(c)  If one parent is deceased, the surviving parent is the natural guardian of the person of the minor children and is entitled to be appointed guardian of the minor children’s estates.

The appointment is not automatic.  The probate court appoints the guardian of the minor’s estate.

Can the Minor Choose Who Serves as Guardian?

A minor who is at least 12 years old can select the guardian.  Section 1104.054 of the Texas Estates Code states:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, if an application is filed for the guardianship of the person or estate, or both, of a minor at least 12 years of age, the minor may select the guardian by a writing filed with the clerk, if the court finds that the selection is in the minor’s best interest and approves the selection.

(b)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, a minor at least 12 years of age may select another guardian of the minor’s person or estate, or both, if the minor has a guardian appointed by the court, by will of the minor’s parent, or by written declaration of the minor’s parent, and that guardian dies, resigns, or is removed from guardianship.  The minor must make the selection by filing an application in open court in person or by an attorney.  The court shall make the appointment and revoke the letters of guardianship of the former guardian if the court is satisfied that:

(1)  the person selected is suitable and competent; and

(2)  the appointment of the person is in the minor’s best interest.

Laws preventing minors from directly receiving an inheritance are set up for the protection of the minors.  The money is protected and its use supervised until the minor reaches adulthood and is old enough to hold the money directly.

If you find yourself in a situation where a minor is poised to inherit from a Texas estate, a Texas probate attorney can help you establish a guardianship over the estate of the minor.

Can I Avoid Having A Guardianship Over a Minor’s Inheritance?

Yes.  Having to establish a guardianship for a minor because of an inheritance can be avoided through planning.  The most common vehicles used to avoid a minor guardianship are a trust and a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act account.  To learn more, click here.

 

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