Any human being below age 18 falls within the ambit of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. We summarize the main points by way of introduction, although there is no practical way of protecting these legal rights of children outside of national legislation. This varies from almost non-existent in some countries to the United Kingdom where we have high standards.
The Basic Rights of the Children of the World
1… A right of association with both parents
2… A right to their own unique human identity
3… Physical protection, food, universal free education
4… Health care and protection under criminal law
5… Equal protection of civil rights worldwide
6… Freedom from discrimination of almost any kind
However, there is no mention of property rights in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. What happens if a minor inherits cash or property in England or Wales?
Protecting the Legal Rights of Children in Probate
The Administration of Estates Act 1925 consolidated, simplified and reformed the rules for administering deceased estates in England and Wales. We unpick the sections of this law affecting minors in the paragraphs following, as the original document has an average 104 words per sentence.
1… The personal representative (executor) may appoint a trust of between two and four people if
a… the infant is entitled to a legacy under the will or the residue of an estate
b… the infant is entitled to a share of an estate where this is left intestate
2… Those trustees must manage these assets, including property until the child reaches majority age
3… Once legally appointed the trustees are responsible for the care of the assets
4… They may also covert them to cash and invest this in any authorized investment
What Does the Law Mean by Authorized Investments?
A testator creating an infant trust should normally leave detailed written instructions how the trustees should invest any cash. These authorized instruments may also be defined in national law. The intent is to avoid aggressive / speculative investments, and manage the trust conservatively.
English and Welsh trust law seeks to control asset funds that one person / people manage of behalf of another. The following are the three main principles applying:
1… A testator appointing a trust should make sure they choose competent trustees able to manage the assets. If they refuse to accept their position, or act irresponsibly / detrimentally to the trust, a court may substitute someone else.
2… Trustees have a duty to the settlor or executor creating the trust, and the minor beneficiary. This fiduciary responsibility entails acting in a transparently correct way, and ignoring any personal Interests they may have when protecting the legal rights of children.
3… They also have a duty of care when making administrative and investment decisions. A court may overturn their decisions if it judges them irrational or contrary to the settlor’s stated intentions.
A settlor creating an infant trust should therefore seek expert advice, including choosing trustees of exemplary character and with the required hard skills.