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distribution to minor

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I work for a bank that is trustee of a 401k plan.  One of the participants passed away in 2019 with no beneficiary form.  He has $590 in his account.

He was not married.  He has 6 children.  In the state where he lived, 18 is the age of majority.  4 of his children are older than 18.  The other two are 15 and 17 years old.

Each bene is due around $95.  For the 2 children who are not 18, must those checks be paid to a guardian?  I think those 2 kids might be living with a grandmother.  If the payment has to be made to the guardian, do I need to request something to substantiate who is legal guardian for the two minor children?  Thank you! 


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To add additional info, the plan document states that "In the sole judgment of the Plan Administrator, if any Beneficiary entitled to benefits under the Plan is not capable of managing the benefit about to be distributed, such distribution may be made to legal representative of that Beneficiary, or in the case of a minor Beneficiary the guardian, under a valid power of attorney, a court appointed guardian or any other person authorized under state law to receive the benefit. The Plan Administrator may require an order of a court of competent jurisdiction before making such distribution. "

I think the document allows that the Plan Administrator could pay the money directly to the kids if he/she thinks that they are capable of managing the benefit (?).  I don't think it would be unreasonable to assume a 15 and 17 year-old could manage a $95 payment...

Any thoughts?  thank you!


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Since those benes are both minors, the bank should ask for something from the person purporting to be their guardian proving that they have been appointed as the child's guardian -- it could be something from the probate court -- much will depend upon the language of the state law authorizing persons to receive assets on behalf of a minor child. I have seen provisions that are more liberal than the one describe, in which case, you may simply be able to pay out that person and not be concerned with how they apply. The bank should not apply for a court order -- let the person claiming the money on the minors' behalf do the heavy lifting of proving that they are duly qualified under applicable state law -- if that is done, then the trustee may pay that person directly on behalf of the minors.

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Just curious, if the plan’s administrator (we presume it directs the bank trustee for distributions) considers any risk:

What information did the plan’s administrator use to decide that the participant had no more than those six children?

Peter Gulia PC

Fiduciary Guidance Counsel

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



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