Progress for the future: Understanding the changes to Minor Trust Accounts

By Micheal Rios

Progress is impossible without change. For that reason changes are coming to how Tulalip youth will receive their per capita trust fund money. The changes primarily affect the disbursement of the money. Previously, when a tribal member has turned 18 years old and achieved their high school diploma or G.E.D. they would then receive 100% of the money in their minor trust account. Effective as of January 1, 2017, tribal members ages 18-21 who have achieved their high school diploma or G.E.D. will now receive 25% of their trust in yearly payments.

Additionally, tribal members who do not achieve their high school diploma or G.E.D. will have to hold out until they become 22 years of age in order to collect on their trust account. The same disbursement method of yearly payments at 25% applies.

There are multiple reasons why these changes to trust account disbursements are needed and will take place. The principal and easiest to understand is this: changing the trust disbursal from one payment at 100% to four payments at 25%, allows the collecting tribal member to save thousands and thousands of dollars in tax penalties. Please see visual chart below to see how a June 2017, Tulalip high school graduate is saved over $10,000 in tax penalties by receiving four payments of 25% as opposed to one lump sum. That’s more than $10,000 being saved from forfeiture for each tribal member to pocket and spend how they see fit.




The vast majority of tribal members should agree that the change in disbursement is necessary if only for the thousands of dollars it saves for each young adult. It’s saving over $10,000 for the June 2017 graduates, and that dollar amount saved will only grow exponentially in the years to come.

Some tribal members may suggest that this is a scheme of some sort, instead of seeing this change as progress for the future. In fact, this change is a direct result of the experience and testimonials witnessed by Rosie Topaum, who was the driving force behind changing the disbursement amount. For years now, she has heard the countless stories of young Tulalip citizens who spent their entire lump sum in a matter of weeks and wish they could have a do over with their trust money.

“For the last two years I’ve been brainstorming with my staff and members of the community about how we can make this process better for the youth,” says Rosie, Enrollment Manager. “I know change can be hard to accept, but it’s necessary. There are so many people who’ve shared their story with me of how they blew through their trust money, loaned it out to family and friends only to never to get it back, or simply wish they would have waited to be older and more mature before getting such a large amount of money. We want to help our youth and give them the best opportunity to succeed.”

Rosie really saw traction for her idea to change the disbursement amount after she sent out a survey via tribal-wide email, personal email, and the tribal member only Facebook group. Back in June of last year this survey on the effectiveness of the minor trust accounts went out and she received 285 respondents, 98% of whom were tribal member parents or young adult tribal members advocating for a change of this sort. For those wondering, 285 respondents is a huge amount. Consider at the most recent semi-annual General Council, the largest amount of respondents to cast their vote was 316.

There may be some young adults who require a larger distribution than 25% and there is a lump sum request option available to them. A request for a higher percentage can be made before the trust committee who will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors whether to grant or deny the request. Examples of requests that can be granted are to start a business, purchase a home or land, pay extra costs with college, and pay for medical bills.

Along with the disbursement changes from 100% to four payments of 25% comes the mandatory education class on budgeting and money management each tribal member must attend prior to receiving their first distribution. This financial skills class will be offered once a month, on a Friday from 2:00p.m. – 6:00p.m. at the Tulalip Admin building in room 162. Dinner will be provided and transpiration made available by the Youth Services Department.

One final note: none of these changes to the minor trust accounts dictate what a Tulalip citizen can do with his or her money. For example, after achieving a high school diploma and taking the mandatory, one-time financial skills class, the youthful tribal member will receive the first 25% distribution check of their trust. Not the parents, Board of Directors, nor any notion of the tribe can tell that individual what they can or can’t do with their money. However, the hope is that whatever is done with that money, by the time a year goes by and the next 25% distribution check is cut, the tribal member has gained more life experiences as an adult, and is more prepared to make wise decisions regarding their future. As we can call attest, you will learn to make better decisions in life with experience and time. That’s progress.

Questions? Please contact Rosie Topaum at 360-716-4300 or Also, there will be another community meeting at the Admin Building in room 162 on November 29 at 5:00 p.m for those who weren’t able to attend any of the previous meetings.