Personal Injury Settlements for Minors: There’s More To It!
Minor children frequently have personal injury claims but they are legally incapable of agreeing to a settlement and unable to receive the funds. Therefore, under Rule 53 of the Arizona Rules of Probate Procedure, most settlements for plaintiffs under the age of 18 must be approved by the Court, who then authorizes the execution of the release.
This process applies to any settlements exceeding $10,000.00. Once a settlement agreement is reached between the two parties, Plaintiff’s counsel must seek approval from the probate court. This process involves submitting numerous documents including a spreadsheet of the attorney’s hours log. The court has the ability to reduce the attorney’s fee if the court finds it to be excessive. Once the court has approved the settlement, it will also assign a conservator to sign the release and to manage the funds.
This conservator is tasked with managing the money until the minor reaches the age of 18. Typically, the money is invested into an interest-bearing restricted account at the discretion of the conservator. Conservators can be a third-party attorney, a public fiduciary, or a friend or relative of the minor. Should the minor need the money or a portion of the money prior to the age of 18, she must petition the court by way of her conservator, and must show a need for said money. It is the court’s discretion as to whether any will be disbursed.
Once the Minor turns 18 she can receive the money and close the conservatorship. If the amount of money is significant, she has the option of setting up a settlement trust. This option will allow the assigned conservator (now called a trustee) to continue managing the money but removes the need for court approval for any disbursement. Instead, the individual must petition her conservator/trustee for disbursal of funds. These trusts typically expire once the individual turns 25. However, they can be modified to last much longer. The idea behind a settlement trust is that many 18 year-olds are not yet mature or responsible enough to properly manage large sums of money. This process typically ensures the money is not squandered quickly.
Another option to protect the settlement funds beyond the age of 18 is to structure the settlement. Settlements can be structured in various ways. It allows for the money to be distributed in smaller amounts, either bi-weekly, monthly, annually, etc.
Contact Rockafellow Law Firm for legal assistance
These protections are in place to protect the settlement funds from being wasted by the minor, the minor’s parents, or from friends and family of the minor. Once a minor reaches a settlement, the Rockafellow Law Firm will discuss the various options with the family of the minor to come to the arrangement best fits the individual. Contact our Tucson office now.