Should You Provide Property Management in Your Will?

After you have decided who will get your property, Nolo’s Online Will asks you whether you want to create property management for young beneficiaries.

First, consider whether any of your beneficiaries need someone to manage the property for them. For example, think about the each beneficiary's:

  • age
  • maturity
  • relationship to you
  • value of the property, and
  • the type of property in the bequest.

Age of Your Beneficiary

If your beneficiaries are very young when you make your will, it is often wise to name someone to manage the property they might take under it.

Under most laws, adult status is bestowed on those who turn 18. While not every 18-year-old has the sophistication to manage their own property, most have the legal right to do so. By providing property management in your will, you set the age at which your beneficiary will receive your gift outright.

The law does not limit how long you can provide property management. However, with this will you can provide property management only through age 35. If you want to provide property management beyond that age, consult a lawyer.

Maturity of the Beneficiary

Maturity—and the ability to care for property and manage money wisely—is not necessarily tied to age. Some young teens seem naturally gifted with common sense and sophistication beyond their years. Some young adults remain steadfastly unreliable when it comes to sound decision making.

Be as objective as possible in evaluating the maturity level of your young beneficiaries. If you're unsure, seek guidance from other people who know them well.

Relationship Between You and the Beneficiary

If the beneficiary is your own child and you see him or her regularly, you are likely the best judge of the child's ability to conserve or squander property.

But providing management for someone else's child might cause problems if your choice for manager turns out to be a poor one. For instance, if you name one of the child's parents as manager but the parents later get a divorce and the other parent assumes sole custody, your choice for manager might not be as appropriate as you thought.

For this reason, especially if the property is not especially valuable, it may make sense to simply leave the property to the child outright and not name a manager for it. If management later becomes necessary, the issue will be decided by a court.

Value of the Property

This one is simple. The more valuable the property, the more likely you will want to appoint a trusted adult to manage it for a young beneficiary.

If the property you have slated to give a minor or young adult is not monetarily valuable—worth less than $2,000 or so—then it may not be worth the time and effort to have an adult manage it.

Type of Property

It is often wise to provide some type of management if the property you intend to give a young beneficiary is:

  • cash or other liquid assets—for example, a savings account that can easily be spent, or
  • property that comes with a title document—for example, real estate.

And from a practical standpoint, it may also be important for you to provide management for property you leave to young beneficiaries where that property is unique or valuable—for example, a collection of rare coins that you do not want frittered away or damaged.

If You Do Not Provide Management for a Minor

If the beneficiary you name in your will is a minor and the property you leave him or her is worth more than $2,000 or so, a court will likely appoint and supervise a guardian to manage the property.

There are often drawbacks to property guardianships set up in court. They must end at age 18 and are commonly cumbersome, expensive and impersonal. Court approval is often required for routine management decisions, and costs are deducted from the property being managed. And they leave open the possibility that the judge may appoint someone unfamiliar with and unsympathetic to the minor's needs.