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How Do I Make a Florida Estate Planning Gift to a Child?


A common question we get is, “How do you leave money or property to a minor?” For example, say you want to leave your currently 12-year-old niece a $5,000 gift in your will. If you die before she reaches adulthood, how would that money be handled? One option provided by Florida law is a custodial account, also known as a UTMA account.

Florida Custodial Accounts for Minors

UTMA stands for “Uniform Transfer to Minors Act.” Most states have some form of a UTMA–hence the “Uniform” in the title–although the specific provisions vary by jurisdiction. But the basic idea is the same everywhere: Instead of giving property directly to a minor, you give it to a “custodian,” who manages the asset until the minor reaches a certain age.

For UTMA gifts created under a will or trust, the custodian normally holds the asset until the minor reaches the age of 21. If the gift is made outside of a will or trust, say by the personal representative of an intestate estate or a distribution from a pension plan, then the custodian only holds the property until the minor turns 18.

Florida law also technically allows a person making a will or trust to specify a UTMA account should continue until the minor turns 25. But this restriction is not ironclad. The law, in fact, still permits the minor to “compel immediate distribution” of the custodial account upon turning 21.

What actually happens if you specify distribution at age 25 is that the custodian must deliver the minor a written notice informing them of the right to immediate distribution. Only if the minor fails to affirmatively respond to said notice can the custodian maintain the custodial account. The notice itself must be delivered within a period starting 30 days before the minor’s 21st birthday and ending 30 days after said birthday.

Trusts vs. UTMA Accounts

If you are looking to keep control over a gift to someone past the age of 25, your best option might be to create a Florida trust instead of relying on a UTMA account. With a trust you can direct your trustee to hold a given asset or assets for as long as you wish. Trust assets are not subject to the same restrictions as the UTMA, so in theory you could delay distribution of a gift until a beneficiary reaches 30, 40, or even 50 years of age.

You may even wish to structure a trust such that distributions are staggered. For instance, say you want to use a trust to distribute your estate to your children. You could direct the trustee to pay over one-third of each child’s share when he or she turns 21, another one-third when the child turns 25, and the balance when the child reaches 30.

Of course, this is just one alternative. A qualified Fort Myers estate planning attorney can sit down and review your unique situation and help devise a will, trust, and other documents to determine the best way to secure your family’s future. Contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., today at 239-333-4529 to schedule a free estate planning consultation with a member of our team.

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