My 9 year-old client, Angelina, recently died. Needless to say, her death has been difficult. Angelina taught her family many things in her short life - namely about one's purpose in life and what is important and what is not. When the client is a child, whether they are disabled as Angie was, or not, many parents have questions about who is in charge of the money and how it is spent after a settlement or a jury award. Angelina's story answers many of these questions. This overview is meant as a brief introduction of how things are handled after the case is resolved.
Angelina received a settlement at the conclusion of a lawsuit. The settlement was for her injuries, as opposed to money that may be paid to parents for medical bills. After the settlement, but before any money was distributed, a Minor's Estate was opened in court. That brought Angie's case before a probate judge who would now oversee the investments and authorize the spending of Angie's money. A bank with a Guardianship Department became involved to serve as Guardian of the Estate. Her parents continued to make her personal and medical decisions.
In order to spend any of the money, a request has to be made to the judge overseeing the Estate. Generally, requests for expenditures that are in the best interests of the child are approved. These include medical and therapy bills, and adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, etc. The purchase of a modified van, as well as the cost of the auto insurance has been allowed. Home modifications to existing homes has been allowed. When the family does not have a home, the purchase of a home has also been approved. Two of the main factors that the judge considers when reviewing these requests, known as petitions, are the needs of the child and the size of the estate, i.e., how much money is available.
It is my practice to remain on my cases that move into the probate court, so I assist with these matters and handle the legal paperwork.