If property is left directly to a minor after someone dies, legally the minor won't have any authority to take control of the property. In most cases, a court-supervised guardianship
, known as conservatorship in some states, will need to be established for the benefit of the minor. Once selected by the judge, the guardian or conservator will have numerous duties and responsibilities with regard to taking care of all of the minor's needs.
Investing and Managing the Minor's Assets
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The court appointed guardian or conservator will be responsible for deciding where the minor's liquid assets will be held and who will be responsible for overseeing their investment, such as the guardian him or herself or a professional financial advisor
. If the minor owns any real estate, then the guardian or conservator will be responsible for paying all of the bills for maintaining the property, such as taxes, mortgages and insurance.
Paying for the Minor's Health, Education and Maintenance
The court appointed guardian or conservator will need to pay for the health, education, and maintenance of the minor, including medical bills, clothes, food, school tuition, summer camp, and vacations.
Preparing and Filing Income Tax Returns
Because the guardianship or conservatorship assets will need to be invested to produce income sufficient to take care of the minor's needs, in most cases the guardian or conservator will need to prepare and file a yearly income tax return on behalf of the minor and pay any taxes that may be due.
Deciding Where the Minor Will Live
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The court appointed guardian or conservator will need to decide where the minor will live, such as at their own home inherited from their parents or at the home of the guardian or conservator. The judge will need to approve where the minor is going to live and if the judge believes that the home selected is not large enough, then the judge will either authorize improvements to the existing home or the purchase of a different residence.
Asking for Court Approval
16th Judicial Circuit, Key West, Florida
Depending on the laws of the state where the guardianship or conservatorship has been established, the court-appointed guardian or conservator will be required to obtain court approval to carry out many of their duties and responsibilities. For instance, in Florida, the guardian or conservator will need to obtain court approval to sell the minor's home and purchase a new one.
Filing Annual Court Accountings
Each and every year during the course of the guardianship or conservatorship, the court appointed guardian or conservator will be responsible for preparing and filing with the court a detailed accounting of how the minor's assets have been bought, sold, invested, and spent on behalf of the minor during the previous year.
Terminating the Guardianship or Conservatorship at the Appropriate Age
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Depending on the laws of the state where the guardianship or conservatorship was established, when the minor reaches the age of 18 or 21, the court appointed guardian or conservator must file a final accounting of the minor's assets, terminate the guardianship or conservatorship, and distribute the remaining assets outright to the minor.