Representing children in serious injury and wrongful death cases has considerations not otherwise found in cases involving adults. Any settlement for a child requires approval by the probate court, who will appoint an adult (usually a parent) as the child’s conservator. The court will review the settlement to determine whether it is in the child’s best interests, and if so, will authorize the conservator to compromise or settle the child’s claims.
The deposit of the child’s settlement funds is also done under the supervision of the probate court. When a child receives a settlement, the lawyer cannot give the settlement funds to a parent (the money belongs to the child, not to the parent); nor can the attorney write a check to a minor. Fortunately, there is a sensible solution for this.
Under the supervision of the probate court, the attorney and conservator may establish a restricted, F.D.I.C. insured account with a bank, credit union or other financial institution. The restricted nature of the account protects the settlement funds and holds the financial institution accountable should it disburse funds without first obtaining a court order. In short, the funds belong to the child and will remain in the account as the child’s “property” until the conservatorship is terminated after the child turns eighteen years old.
Alternatively, we often retain a structured settlement annuity broker to fund an annuity, which will make periodic payments to the child beginning on or after the child’s eighteenth birthday, with progressively larger payments through early adult years. The annuity permits access to settlement monies when the young adult is in need of the funds for college, travel, or even to make a down payment on a first home. Best of all, the entire amount of the future annuity payments are tax-free, with the annuity often providing a far greater rate of return than any conventional bank account.
At DeFusco Law, we handle all conservatorship matters after resolving a child’s serious injury or wrongful death case and will work with your financial planner or an annuity broker to ensure that the settlement funds are readily available when the child needs the funds. We do not charge additional fees for handling the conservatorship and funding matters, as this work is included within our standard contingent fee in representing the child on the injury or death case.
Steven’s grandmother was about to drive him to a birthday party at his mother’s house to celebrate his sixth birthday. As Steven sat in a child restraint seat in the back seat of his grandmother’s car, an adult woman seated next to Steven handed him a loaded flare gun, which discharged, causing Steven to suffer permanent burn injuries over his back and torso. Steven would undergo several skin grafting procedures to repair his burn injuries. The settlement of Steven’s case allowed his mother, who was appointed by the probate court as his conservator, to place funds in a restricted account to pay for Steven’s future medical care needs, and to fund an annuity that will make guaranteed payments to Steven beginning on his eighteenth birthday. Steven will have access to these settlement monies when he is a young adult to fund his college education or to purchase a first home.