How to legally manage a child's inheritance in New York.

Understanding Child Inheritance Laws in New York

Managing a child's inheritance is a significant responsibility that requires careful legal and financial planning. In New York, several key laws and strategies must be considered to ensure that the inheritance serves the best interest of the minor until they reach an age where they can manage the assets themselves.

Setting Up a Trust

A widely adopted approach for managing a child's inheritance is setting up a trust. A trust allows you to appoint a trustee to manage the inheritance on behalf of the child. There are various types of trusts, but for minors, a Testamentary Trust, which comes into effect upon the death of the person who created the will, is commonly used.

For example, if a parent or grandparent wants to leave assets to a child, they can stipulate in their will that those assets will go into a Testamentary Trust. The trustee then manages these assets according to the terms set out in the trust document until the child reaches a designated age.

Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) Accounts

New York adheres to the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA), which allows minors to receive gifts without needing a guardian or trustee. An adult can be named as custodian for the account until the minor reaches the age of majority, which in New York is 21 for UTMA accounts. This is a convenient way to transfer assets to a child without setting up a trust.


If no arrangement has been made for managing a child's inheritance, and they receive assets outright, it may be necessary to establish a guardianship. The court will appoint a guardian to manage the inheritance on behalf of the minor. However, this process can be time-consuming and costly.

It's important to note that all decisions made by trustees, custodians, or guardians must prioritize the child's needs and interests over their own—a principle known as fiduciary duty.

Tax Implications

When managing an inheritance for a minor, tax implications must also be considered. Trusts and UTMA accounts have different tax treatments that should be carefully evaluated with the help of an estate planning attorney or tax professional.

The Role of Estate Planning Attorneys

An estate planning attorney is essential in navigating New York's complex inheritance laws. They can help create an appropriate estate plan that includes provisions for minor children and advise on matters such as selecting trustees or custodians and tax implications.


Legally managing a child's inheritance in New York involves understanding various options such as trusts, UTMA accounts, and guardianships. It is crucial to engage with professionals who specialize in estate planning to ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the child’s financial future is well-protected.