This may surprise you, but did you know that you (as the natural guardian/legal guardian of your minor child) must first obtain the approval of the Court before accepting a personal injury settlement on behalf of your minor child. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, any settlement that exceeds $15,000.00 must be approved by the Court. Depending on the amount of the settlement, Florida Statutes may also require or give the Court the authority to require the appointment of a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem in this situation is typically an attorney that has handled personal injury actions and can inform the court whether the proposed settlement is in the best interest of the minor. In addition to the appointment of a guardian ad litem, Florida Statutes may also require the appointment of a legal guardian to manage and protect the settlement funds on behalf of the child. Most of my parents are confused at this point, because they all assume that they are the legal guardians of their biological children. In fact, most parents are only considered the natural guardians of their children and must be appointed by the court as the child’s legal guardian.
Before you obtain the court’s approval, parents must decide whether they will take a lump sum settlement or form a structured settlement that would make regular payments to the minor child. Parents have the control to dictate the amount and the timing of the payments, even if the payments are to be made past the date of the minor’s eighteenth (18th) birthday. Most parents like this plan because it ensures that the minor child does not mismanage the funds when they turn eighteen (18). A recent court decision from he 5th District Court of the Appeals confirmed that such a structured settlement is appropriate and at the termination of the guardianship, the guardian need only deliver the annuity contract, and not the actual proceeds to the child. Hancock v. Share, 36 FLWD 1484a (Fla. 5th DCA 7-8-11).
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the injury or settlement of your minor child, please contact my firm at your convenience. This is only a snapshot of the issues that parents must face when evaluating their minor child’s bodily injury settlement.
C. Paul Brannon, Esq.