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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Minor Settlements In Probate Court

When a minor is injured and someone else is liable, what happens? How is that child reimbursed for their injuries? Because the child is not old enough to legally settle the claim, the county probate court is going to be involved.

The probate court has the authority to approve the settlement of minor's injury claims, and will decide how the settlement funds are distributed.

The guardian of that minor (or of the minor's estate if they passed away) must file an Application to Settle a Minor's Claim in the child's county probate court. Parents who do not have custody of the child get notice of this application, which must contain the following:
  1. A current statement from a physician that describes the injuries, including their permanency and extent of recovery,
  2. A statment that descibes the circumstances of the injury or damage, as well as treatment program, and
  3. prospective or actuctual settlements from similar incidents (for minors or adults).
The minor child must attend the hearing, and within 30 days after the settlement, there will be an Entry Approving Settlement of a Minors Claim and Distribution and Entry of Minor's Claim to prove the proper distribution of the settlement funds.

If a guardian was appointed, the case remains open until the guardian submits an inventory within three months of their appointment. For settlements over $10,000, a guardian must be appointed. A guardian is not needed for settlements under $10,000.

In the end, the court will chose to do one of the following with the remaining funds:
  1. Release funds to the natural guardian or the minor,
  2. Order the funds placed in a secured account and released to the minor when he or she becomes an adult, or
  3. Place the funds in an annuity that will provide a future source of steady income to the minor.
Thanks to Lora Lynne Stalnaker, who wrote an article that was the basis for this post.