Minor Settlements

The probate litigation practice at the law firm of James Bart Leonardi LLC includes representation of parents and guardians in probate court proceedings for approval of settlements on behalf of injured minors. Recognized as a proven probate litigator, Mr. Leonardi applies his extensive background in litigation and finance in handling these critically important cases. Located in Westlake, the firm serves clients in Cleveland and throughout northeast Ohio.

Ohio Statutory Requirements for Minor Settlements

Under Ohio law, when an injured minor receives proceeds in compensation for the negligence of another, the probate court must approve the settlement of the minor’s claim.

To receive the required court approval, the minor’s parent(s) or guardian must file a petition with the probate court. The statutes that apply to minor settlement actions are complex. Representation by a knowledgeable probate litigation attorney with experience in minor settlements is absolutely essential.

Probate Court Authority in Minor Settlement Cases

The process for court approval of a minor settlement depends on the amount of the settlement, as follows:

  • If the amount is $25,000 or less (after payment of fees and costs), the court may approve the settlement without establishing a guardianship.
  • If the amount is more than $25,000, the court will appoint a guardian of the estate for the minor, which may be the minor’s parent(s) or another suitable individual.

Through legal counsel, the petitioner presents an application of how the proceeds are to be distributed to the parties involved. In some instances, parents can request an amount payable to them for loss of services of the minor. The net proceeds available to the injured minor are then reviewed in detail by the court and a hearing is usually held. The judge has broad authority to modify the settlement and/or its distribution during this process.

Funding Options for a Minor Settlement

The funding of a minor settlement depends significantly on the amount of the settlement and the minor’s individual circumstances. The court bases its decision on what is in the best interest of the child.

Some funding options are:

  • Minor Settlement Trust – This is a trust for minors that allows the money to be distributed under controlled circumstances until the age of 25. Once the child turns 25, the remaining proceeds are paid out and the trust is terminated. It is a way to protect against the child receiving a lump sum payment of all remaining proceeds at the young age of 18.
  • Structured Settlement – Structured settlements are guaranteed payments that are paid at specific times to the injured minor and can be stretched out over a period of time that makes sense dependent on each individual case.
  • Special Needs Trust – This is a trust that helps to preserve the settlement proceeds and protects against the proceeds disqualifying the minor from government benefits he or she is entitled to or receiving. These trusts involve an intricate understanding of the various Medicaid and Social Security rules as well as the tax code. They should only be drafted by an experienced estate planning and probate attorney.

Proven Probate Court Minor Settlement Attorney

Determining the best way to allocate a minor settlement requires careful consideration of the minor’s needs and an understanding of the full range of financial implications of all the options. It also requires in-depth knowledge of all applicable Ohio laws and court procedures.

Attorney Bart Leonardi is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by the Ohio State Bar Association. He has extensive probate litigation and financial experience. His estate planning practice includes complex trust planning, which provides him with knowledge and expertise to structure minor settlements to secure court approval.

If you need to secure probate court approval of a minor settlement, contact James Bart Leonardi LLC to schedule a consultation.

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