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Naming a Minor Beneficiary for a Transfer on Death Deed

Learn about the rules regarding transfer of property to minors via a transfer on death deed.

Naming a child younger than age 18 as a beneficiary of your transfer on death deed ("TOD deed" or "beneficiary deed") adds complications. A minor may take title to real estate, but you will need to name a trusted adult to manage the property. You have a few options. These include:

  • using your will to name a property guardian who will take care of any property you leave to the child, including property transferred by a TOD deed
  • setting up a trust for the child and naming that trust as the TOD beneficiary in your TOD deed (see a lawyer if you would like to go this route), or
  • naming an adult "custodian" as well as a minor beneficiary on your TOD deed under your state's Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA).

WillMaker's transfer on death deed helps you use the last option – naming a custodian using the UTMA. In some ways, the UTMA is the least flexible option because the rules surrounding the custodianship and the age when the custodianship ends are set by the laws of your state. But it is also the simplest, clearest option—and the one least likely to cause confusion. The name of the young beneficiary, the name of the adult custodian, and the age at which the custodianship will end appear on TOD deed itself, without having to create or modify other documents.

What Is the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)?

A uniform law is a model law proposed by a group of legal scholars—and states are free to adopt it into their own statutes, or not. The Uniform Transfers to Minors Act is a particular uniform law that allows you to leave property to a minor by naming an adult custodian to manage that property until the child becomes a certain age. When states have adopted the UTMA, they often make small changes to it, such as varying the age at which the custodianship ends. (As a result, the age at which custodianship ends varies from state to state.) To date, every state except South Carolina has adopted the UTMA.

Using the UTMA to Designate a Custodian in a TOD Deed

On a TOD deed, you can name an adult "as custodian for" the young beneficiary. That adult will manage the real estate until the young person reaches an age that ranges from 18 to 30, with the exact age specified in your state's UTMA law. (See the chart below for your state's age or age range.) When the beneficiary reaches the specified age, the beneficiary owns the real estate outright.

It's worth noting that, for many people, leaving an 18-year-old or even 25-year-old with full control of property that is worth a substantial amount—as is often the case with real estate—is not always the most desirable outcome. For more flexibility, speak to an estate planning lawyer about creating a trust.

Who to Name as Custodian

Under the UTMA, the custodian you name will manage the real estate for the benefit of the minor beneficiary until the beneficiary reaches the state-specified age (or the age you choose within the stated-specified range). The custodian you name should be reliable, honest, and capable of prudently managing resources. The custodian should also live near the child.

If possible, you should name the person who will be the child's personal guardian as the custodian of the real estate. If the child is your own child and you have a will, you've likely named the child's other parent as the personal guardian. If the other parent isn't available, or can't be trusted to manage the child's property, name another adult that could handle the job of custodian—preferably one who can work well with the person you've chosen to be the child's guardian.

Under the UTMA, you must name a person, not an institution, to manage the minor's property.

Be sure to speak with your choice and get consent before naming your custodian.

At What Age the Beneficiary Receives the Property

Here are the ages of termination—the ages at which the beneficiary will receive the real estate outright—by state.

State Age at Which Minor Gets Property State Age at Which Minor Gets Property
Alabama 21 Montana 21
Alaska 18 to 25 Nebraska 21
Arizona 21 Nevada 18 to 25
Arkansas 18 to 21 New Hampshire 21
California 18 to 25 New Jersey 18 to 21
Colorado 21 New Mexico 21
Connecticut 21 New York 21
Delaware 21 North Carolina 18 to 21
District of Columbia 18 to 21 North Dakota 21
Florida 21 or 25* Ohio 21 to 25
Georgia 21 Oklahoma 18 to 21
Hawaii 21 Oregon 21 to 25
Idaho 21 Pennsylvania 21 to 25
Illinois 21 Rhode Island 21
Indiana 21 South Dakota 18
Iowa 21 Tennessee 21 to 25
Kansas 21 Texas 21
Kentucky 18 Utah 21
Maine 18 to 21 Vermont 21
Maryland 21 Virginia 18, 21, or 25
Massachusetts 21 Washington 21 or 25*
Michigan 18 to 21 West Virginia 21
Minnesota 21 Wisconsin 21
Mississippi 21 Wyoming 21 to 30
Missouri 21
* In Florida and Virginia, the minor can choose to receive UTMA funds at age 21, even if the account is set to terminate at age 25.

If your state allows you to choose an age, consider the amount of money involved, the beneficiary's likely level of maturity as a young adult, and the degree to which the property will require sophisticated management.

The Language in Your TOD Deed

When you make a transfer on death deed with WillMaker, and you choose to use the UTMA, this is the language that will appear on the document:

[Name of adult custodian], as custodian for [name of minor beneficiary] under the [name of state] Uniform Transfers to Minors Act until age [age of termination]

If your state allows you to choose an age from within a range of ages (for example, you'll see in the chart above that California allows you to choose an age between 18 and 25), WillMaker will ask you to choose a specific age—from within the allowed age range—at which your beneficiary will receive the property.