What is a 2503(c) Minor Trust in Illinois?

How to Leave an Estate to a Minor | 2503c Minor’s Trusts Explained

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
September 23, 2019

In this article, we’ll define a 2503(c) Minor’s Trust, review the advantages of a 2503(c) Minor’s Trust and disadvantages of a 2503(c) Minor’s Trust, and explain the tax benefits of Minor’s Trusts.

What is a 2503(c) Minor Trust?

Named after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that sets the requirements for the irrevocable trust, the 2503(c) Minor’s Trust is utilized to hold gifts in trust for a child until he or she is 21 years old.  This trust only has one beneficiary, who has to be a minor (an individual younger than 21).

Once the beneficiary turns 21, he or she has complete control over the trust’s assets. The grantor, or creator of the trust, cannot receive any income generated by the trust’s assets. Typically, the grantor makes annual contributions to the trust in an amount equal to the annual exclusion amount (currently $13,000). Although the trust can continue to exist after the beneficiary turns 21, his or her gifts will no longer qualify for the annual exclusion. For a gift to qualify for the annual $13,000 gift tax exclusion, the recipient has to be able to use the gift immediately.

What is Required for a Minor Trust?

A 2503(c) Minor’s Trust qualifies for the annual gift tax exemption if it follows these requirements:

  • The trust has to allow the trustee to expend trust assets for the benefit of the minor with limited restrictions to the trustee’s use of discretion in making these expenditures.

  • The principal and income of the trust has to be transferred to the beneficiary once he or she turns 21, or he or she has to have the legal right to withdraw all assets from the trust.

  • If the minor dies before age 21, the trustee has to pay all of the assets from the trust to the minor’s estate, or according to the minor’s power of appointment. If the grantor dies before the trust terminates, the trust will continue to exist.
  • Gifts to the trust are irrevocable.

Minor’s trusts are often used for parents and grandparents to save for a child’s college education, because it’s an easy way for grantors to gift assets to a minor while still qualifying for the federal gift tax and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions. The beneficiary’s trustee can pay the child’s college expenses from the 2503(c) until the minor turns 21. The trustee has to be someone other than the grantor, such as the grantor’s spouse or family member. If the grantor is also the trustee, adverse estate tax consequences may arise. Until the minor becomes of age, the trustee has the right to remove any assets or property from the trust.

For these reasons, it’s common for grantors to combine 2503(c) Minor’s Trusts and Crummey Trusts into a hybrid trust that acts as a 2503(c) Minor’s Trust until the beneficiary turns 21, then transforming into a Crummey Trust. This method allows annual gifts to the trust to continue to qualify for the gift tax exclusion after the minor turns 21. Grantors are often worried the minor will be too young at the age of 21 to make a rational, long-term decision with the trust’s assets. To combat this concern, grantors can restrict the beneficiary’s right to the money until 30, 60, or 90 days after the child turns 21. If the minor chooses to defer his or her right to the money during this time period, the money will remain in the trust until a specified date in the trust document. If the beneficiary decides to remove all of the trust property once he or she is of age, the trust will be terminated.

Advantages of 2503(c) Minor’s Trusts

  • Parents, grandparents, and other grantors can make tax-free gifts to a child’s trust by utilizing their annual gift tax exclusion.

  • Principal and income in the trust can be distributed to the child or used for the child’s benefit as the trustee sees fit, such as college tuition or educational expenses.

  • Unused or undistributed principal and income can be accumulated in the trust until the beneficiary turns 21.

  • Throughout the trust’s terms, a trustee, who is probably more trustworthy than the beneficiary, manages the trust’s assets.

  • When the beneficiary turns 21 years old, he or she has the choice to continue the trust if the trust document contains provisions allowing it to continue.

Disadvantages of 2503(c) Minor’s Trusts

  • Property in a minor’s trust cannot be utilized for another beneficiary if the designated beneficiary doesn’t need the funds, or if the donor has a dispute with the beneficiary.

  • If the donor acts as a trustee, the trust will be included in the donor’s gross taxable estate.

  • Minor’s trusts are taxed at trust rates, which are similar to those for individuals, but with compressed brackets. The trust has its own taxpayer identification number and files its own income tax returns each year (IRS Form 1041).

  • The beneficiary has the right to withdraw the entire balance and all property of a minor’s trust at age 21. This may not be an ideal situation for a minor who is irresponsible or immature for his or her age.

  • Minor’s trusts can only have one beneficiary per trust, so if the grantor wants to make tax-free gifts to more than one minor, each child would have to have his or her own trust. This may become a cumbersome administrative responsibility.

  • Minor’s trusts drive high administrative costs, due to the necessary involvement of an attorney to draft the trust document.

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on a Minor’s Trust?

Wills and Trusts for Minors in Illinois

When it comes to the income tax aspects of a 2503(c) Minor’s Trusts, all of the income that accrues inside the trust will be taxed to the grantor. The beneficiary will be taxed on the distributions made from the trust to the beneficiary at the beneficiary’s tax rates. However, distributions to a beneficiary under the age of 19 are subject to be taxed at the child’s rates, under which the income may be taxed as if it is taxable income to the beneficiary’s parent. Once the beneficiary turns 21, he or she is the legal owner of the trust and will be taxed on all trust income, regardless if it is retained or distributed. Be sure to consult your tax professional about the tax consequences of establishing and funding a minor’s trust.

If income from the trust pays life insurance premiums on a policy where the donor or the donor’s spouse are the insured or uses the income to pay for parental obligations or other legal obligations of the donor, the donor has to pay taxes on the income. Similarly, if the donor reserves the right to receive income from the trust, the donor has to pay taxes on the income.

While these trusts may sound appealing to parents, the Uniform Gift/Transfer to Minors Act also acts as a child’s asset for financial aid purposes, having a high impact on need-based financial aid eligibility; majority of the time, parents are better off establishing section 529 plans for their children. Due to the specific provisions a minor’s trust is required to abide by regarding U.S. tax laws, it is one of the most complicated kinds of trusts for a lawyer to draft. Trustees of the trust also need to receive guidance from an attorney to ensure compliance with the terms of the trust.

Find a Minor's Trust Attorney

If you have questions about 2503(c) Minor’s Trusts, or if you need help drafting a 2503(c) trust document, contact us today.  For an Estate Planning attorney, you can reach out to us at O’Flaherty Law by calling 630-324-6666, emailing info@oflaherty-law.com or visiting out website, www.oflaherty-law.com where you can schedule a free initial consultation.


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