When model, actress, and spokeswoman Anna Nicole Smith passed away in 2007 at the age of 39, she left behind an infant daughter named Dannielynn. The infant became the center of a prolonged paternity case with multiple parties speculating that the infant could potentially benefit from the prolonged probate case involving Smith’s late husband J. Howard Marshall. In 2008, Dannielynn was named her mother’s sole heir and received approximately $700,000, drawing attention to the potential problems that can arise when a minor child is the sole heir of an estate.  Understanding how having a minor child as heir can affect probate can help you prepare your estate plan with your young children or grandchildren in mind.

Family Members as Administrators

Typically, when a person passes away, someone is named as the executor or administrator of their estate. If the person has already created an estate plan and named an executor, things are slightly easier, but if there is no will things can get complicated. When the immediate heir is a minor child, another relative may attempt to take control of estate administration. Unless you have a spouse or someone else who was more closely related to you at the time of your passing, your siblings, cousins, or even the child’s grandparents may start a legal battle to determine who can manage the estate.

Court-Appointed Guardian

In situations in which both parents have passed away, the court will appoint a guardian to administer their estate. In theory, a court-appointed guardian is supposed to be the best way to protect the child’s assets, but in reality, any type of court-appointed individual can make everything more difficult for your family. Having probate court involved in managing your estate can get expensive, time-consuming, and can entangle the court system in your child’s finances for an indeterminable amount of time.

Abrupt Ending

After years of administering an estate on behalf of a minor child, the court will give your child assets of these funds when the child turns 18. Thrusting an 18-year-old into a position in which he or she is responsible for any large sum of money or expensive property without any preparation could lead to a disaster. Many young adults report rapidly going through inherited money, especially since in many cases, their court-appointed guardian or family guardian did not adequately prepare them for the responsibility of receiving a large sum of money.

Prepare for Probate

Taking steps to protect your minor children from the pitfalls of probate is something that all parents should take seriously. Discussing your situation with a probate lawyer and explaining how you want your children to be provided for is the first step on the road to proper estate planning for families with small children. The compassionate attorneys at MMZ Law are here to help you protect your legacy and your children. Our team is here to answer your questions and give you the legal advice you need. Contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can start working on behalf of you and your children.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.