What Happens If a Minor Child Gets a Personal Injury Settlement in Florida?
If a personal injury settlement is obtained for a minor child in Florida (someone under the age of 18) under most circumstances the law in Florida requires a guardian ad litem be appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the child.
Even though the child has a lawyer, in Florida the law requires a guardian ad litem that is appointed by the court to oversee the settlement and ensure that the settlement is in the best interest of the child.
The guardian ad litem is responsible for reviewing the case file including medical records, evidence, records, a proposed settlement, closing statement, and release to ensure the settlement is in the best interest of the minor.
In Florida, when a child is going to get money, the court wants to make sure that the money is for the child and not to be used by the parents or someone else for their own benefit. The law seeks to protect settlements for kids.
The guardian ad litems are appointed to ensure the settlement is fair and reasonable and the funds are protected from others. In other words, in many cases there may be a settlement where the child is going to receive a lump sum amount. For instance, a child’s portion of the settlement after attorney’s fees and costs, may end up being $100,000. The law does not allow that money to be given directly to the children. The law generally does not allow that lump sum to be given to the parents. In most cases, we trust that parents are going to do the right thing with those funds, but the law demands extra protection for minors.
There are several different methods and financial vehicles that are used to protect the child’s funds.
One method is a structured settlement. In a structured settlement the funds are placed into a form of an annuity, which earns interest over time during the child’s minority. For instance, you wouldn’t give a lump sum of $100,000 to a 12 year old. Instead, that money could be put into a structured settlement. The money is essentially invested at the age of 12, and kept with a life insurance or other financial company or trust company. When the child turns 18, they may get a disbursement of $10,000 (or some other amount), and then when they turn 20, another $10,000 (or some other amount), and then when 25 or 27 or some other age, then they get the rest of the money plus interest.
Special Needs Trusts and Pooled Trusts
Another method of protecting a minor child’s settlement is to have the funds placed into a Trust. In that case, the money would go into a Trust with certain restrictions associated with the ability of the parents to use the funds. Typically, the parents or guardian of the minor would have to apply for disbursements of that money. While the funds are in trust, they will also usually be earning some amount of interest.
Another method used by courts to protect minor’s settlement funds would be to open up a legal guardianship with the Courts. In those instances, funds are kept in a restricted bank account, and the parents or other guardian must apply for and obtain an order from the court to allow those funds to be disbursed to be used for the minor’s benefit for food, clothes, school supplies and other items for the child’s benefit.
As mentioned above number there are a number of different financial vehicles that are used in Florida to protect the minor’s assets. Cases where minor’s receive settlements including car accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, dog bite cases, and other accidents where a child is injured. Cases involving minors require special attention. Contact Rosen Injury Law, P.A. if you or a minor child suffered injuries.