Q: My grandparents were both part of a lawsuit. They both died from Mesothelioma and aunt was the power of attorney. My mother and her siblings have only received two small payments totaling less than $8000 each. There are 8 heirs including my mother. We’ve seen that these lawsuits have large amounts of money and we want to find out if our aunt has been stealing from them. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You could call the law firm who handled the settlement and see if they will tell you. If they will not, you will have to do a little investigating yourself. The POA has no effect after the death of the grandparents. There is a good chance an estate was opened. You could look in the Register of Wills in the county your grandparents died to see if an estate was opened. If there was, it might list the beneficiaries or heirs. You could also check the inheritance tax office to see if there is an inheritance tax return on file. It may also list the beneficiaries. If you get nowhere, you can hire an attorney to see if he can get the information from the law firm or the company that paid. It may involve a subpoena or records request.
Q: Approximately 6 years ago my daughter, then 12, was a passenger in an auto accident. Her insurance compensation was put in a trust with her mother as the trustee (I was the driver in the accident). I contributed money to the trust so that my daughter would have money for college at age 18. Now my daughter is 18, but, her mother refuses to release the money to our daughter who needs it for school tuition. Is the law on our side to compel the mother to release the money?
A: There is too much information missing to possibly answer this. I will attempt based on what I think may have happened. The way these things are usually handled is that the money is put in a restrictive account, in the minor’s name. The minor is permitted to have access to the money when he or she turns 18. The trust you describe sounds a bit unusual in that her mother (I assume father remarried?) is the trustee. In order to determine what needs to happen to have the money released to the child now that she is 18, the trust document will have to be examined. It no doubt has language that addresses what conditions need to be met in order for the child to access the money. If you truly have your daughter’s interest in mind, you may want to have a lawyer look at the trust document to advise you on the options available.