Probate As It Affects Minors (Minor Law FAQ)

The information contained on this site does not constitute legal advice and you should not believe that you have entered into an attorney- client relationship with an attorney because you have viewed this page.  This information applies only to the laws of the State of Missouri and Illinois in the United States of America.

What is a conservator?

A conservator is somebody, in the context of a minor’s estate, is the person who acts on behalf of a minor.  In cases involving more than $10,000.00 worth of assets, a court appoints them and they must report all transactions to the court, and show how they benefit the minor.  It is important to remember that the word “conservator” has a root in the word, “conserve”, because the courts, in this area, take a very strict view of the actions of a conservator and require that everything be documented to the court and that the assets be essentially “conserved” for the minor, that is generally not spent and maintained for the minor until they turn 18 years of age.  This is true even when the conservator is for the minor is a parent.  

What is a guardian?

A guardian is a person appointed to take care of a minor’s need, besides their financial transactions, that is somebody who decides where they go to school, where they live, if they need medical care, and things of that nature.  A parent, either the mother or father, absent termination of parental rights, naturally acts a guardian for their child.  If a child is left without parents, then the probate court, in conjunction with the family court, must appoint a guardian to replace them.  This may or may not be the same person as their conservator.  Because a parent acts as a natural guardian, it not normally necessary to have them appointed as a guardian, but must be appointed as a conservator.

How does a guardianship for a minor terminate?

A guardianship for a minor terminates naturally, in the State of Missouri, when the minor reaches the age of eighteen.  The person then becomes an adult and may make his or her own decisions.  Very little action is required to terminate such a guardianship, but of course, this happens normally without any action by anyone, when a parent is acting as a guardian of a minor. 

How does a conservatorship for a minor terminate?

The termination of a conservatorship for a minor is much more important, because there is a final accounting to the court to show how all assets of the minor were spent and it is then paid over to the minor.  If there are any irregularities, sometimes these can be smoothed over with the mere approval of the minor, who is now an adult and can render such an approval.  The conservatorship also terminates at age eighteen when the minor becomes an adult. 

Who will take care of my children if I cannot? 

When a child is left without parents, then the probate court, in the county where the child resides, appoints a guardian and if the child has any money, a conservator.  The probate court normally acts in association with the family court of that county in appointing the guardian for the minor.  If only one of a child’s parents dies or becomes incapacitated so that they can no longer care for the child, then the other parent, by law, has the right to act as guardian for that child naturally, without court appointment, even if they are a non-custodial parent.  Parents often specify in their will who they would like to have appointed to care for their children, in the event of a tragedy.  The courts often consider this when they are making such appointments and are usually given deference by the court.  However, the court is not required to give this appointment deference and in fact, if the court believes that person is untrustworthy, they may appoint somebody else, including the public administrator for the county.  The court does not have the deference to appoint that person if the child still has a living parent, then the parent always have the right to act on behalf of the child, absent termination of parental rights or other unusual circumstances.  It can be important that such a direction for a child be made properly and handled properly in the courts, to assure that a parent’s wishes are honored.  I am always available to help parents in drafting wills and other important documents, like this.

How do I deal with money that my child has inherited or received in a settlement?

In the State of Missouri, a child is prohibited from acting on their finances without a conservator, when these amounts are over $10,000.00.  If the child has money that is not held in a custodial account or receives money from an inheritance then they must have a conservator appointed to take care of their needs.

How can I give money to a minor without involving the court?

Normally, small amounts of money can be given to a child, without any further involvement.  For substantially larger sums, legal action is required.  Sums under $10,000.00 can be given to the minor under the Missouri Uniform Gift Act to Minors.  This money must be given to the minor very carefully, with a custodian named, so that court conservatorship proceedings are not necessary.  Often times, for relatively small amounts over “pocket cash” the banks or brokerage house can attempt to help you make the Uniform Gift Act to Minor.  However, for more substantial procedures I would recommend contacting an attorney that specializes in this area of the law, like myself.  I have also found on many occasions that banks, mortgage brokerages and other financial institutions believe they know more about the Uniform Gift Act to Minors than they actually do and have made errors in this designation.  I would recommend that anybody making such a designation, at least ask an attorney to review the documents before they are signed. 

What is a custodian?

A custodian is a person appointed to manage the finances of a minor, under the Missouri Uniform Gift Act to Minors.  They act under the authority given to them in the document granting them power.  I would always recommend that before a custodian is appointed, an attorney review documents in question. 

 

The information contained on this site does not constitute legal advice and you should not believe that you have entered into an attorney- client relationship with an attorney because you have viewed this page.  This information applies only to the laws of the State of Missouri in the United States of America.

 

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