Nyxelestia (nyxelestia) wrote in little_details,

Can an emancipated minor get a life-insurance payout and make a will? (+Medical decisions)

Setting: Northern California, 2014 (Show/fandom: Teen Wolf)

Goal: 17-year-old is murdered, and his family of choice (whom he has no biological or legal relationship to) abruptly inherit his old house and a large sum of money, which they are blindsided by. Before that, he was briefly hospitalized, and this family made medical decisions for him.

Researched: I tried to research what I could about emancipation in California, but most of what I found was just on how to get emancipation in the first place, not nuances of what minors can and cannot do once emancipated.


When the teenager was 16 in February/March-ish of 2013, his father was murdered. It took a few months for the murderer (a serial killer) to be caught, during which this son was briefly a suspect, which delayed payout from his father's life-insurance policy.

He spent the late spring and all of summer living with a man who, on paper, he had no legal or biological relationship to. Come fall, he moved in with another friend and said friend's single mom. He was still living with this family of choice when he was murdered, himself, about 6-8 months later, when he was 17. Early on in that last stay, he was briefly hospitalized, so the question of who had the right to make medical decisions for him came up.

Current Plan:

As soon as he was no longer a suspect in his father's murder, he applied for emancipation as a minor (and got it easily, since he had a job, guaranteed housing in the form of his family home with no more mortgage, and was still going to school).

As I understand it, emancipated minors can enter legal contracts including property agreements, so he should be able to inherit his childhood home. Is a will considered a "legally binding contract"? Can he make one, bequeathing his house and finances to this adoptive family? (Or even to other people of his choice? He had a girlfriend who he was serious with and whose family was sort of another/a secondary adoptive family for him, so I might also have him leave his house to one family and his money to the other.)

That said, if he is bequeathing them such assets, would that require their consent/formal awareness for this to be legally viable? Or is it enough for him to just say that he wants them to get his house and money if he dies, and they can still be surprised by it later on?

In regards to his father's life insurance: as I understand it, normally if the beneficiary is a minor, they need a legal guardian to receive the pay-out. Would he still need a guardian over the age of majority to receive the insurance pay-out, even if he is an emancipated minor?

If Emancipation doesn't work:

If so, then my alternate plan is that first the man, then later the single mom, both just agree to be his legal guardians, and the single mom later adopts him. But I feel like that would be more complicated and a greater hassle. I imagine Social Services would be suspicious of an adult man willing to be a legal guardian for a random teenager. (Even if he is portraying himself as planning to mostly let the kid live in his own home and just be a guardian on paper. He will claim that he's just sympathetic since he also was recently accused of murdering his last family member, acquitted/no longer suspected, and it turned out she was killed by a serial killer.)

On the flip side, I believe this means that his adopted family would just inherit his house and money without him needing to explicitly make a will/leave it to them, which would help in my narrative goal of them being blindsided by this after his death.

These characters can't explain the truth to social services about why this teenager is living at first with this man, and later that single mom (since this is an urban fantasy and the answer is "werewolf politics").

This teenager has no relatives in the state (his original mother and older brother are long-dead). When he gets the insurance pay out, he doesn't do anything elaborate with it, mostly shoving it into some savings account and planning to live off of it during college. I'm planning for him to also inherit some small savings or other forms of money from his father as well. (i.e. If his father had any retirement savings, would the teenager get them?)

Additionally, for his hospitalization:

My plan for him to be an emancipated minor gives that single mom no legal ground to make medical decisions for him. Current plan is that in the chaos of his hospitalization she makes decisions and their relationship is such that no one questions its legality at the time; by the time someone does, the teenager's well enough to confirm that he was all right with her making those decisions for him, even though there'd never been any paperwork done beforehand. Is this remotely legal?

If not, then I'm guessing hot potato guardianship would also be a better fit since that gives the single mom the right to make decisions for him ahead of time/no challenge to her making medical decisions for him once he's hospitalized.

tl;dr Teenager's father was murdered when he was 16, and he inherited a house and a good amount of money. Didn't do much with them, bounced around a bit before settling down with a loving adoptive family, only to be murdered when he's 17. How do I make sure this adoptive family inherits that house and money? And how can I give them the right/power to make medical decisions for him before that?
Tags: usa: california, ~adoption, ~custody & social services, ~inheritance, ~real estate

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