Getting control of bank account from parent?
February 18, 2013 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Hi MeFi, I have a friend who is having trouble getting access to the money her dad left her when he passed away. Her mother currently has control of the money and won't let the friend manage it herself despite the fact that she is 21. The friend wants to know how she can find out her account information so she manage her own money. Thanks, zscore
posted by zscore to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Is the account under her name and SSN? If so, she should be able to go to the bank with proper ID and gain access. If the money is in the parent's account and simply promised to her, she's out of luck gaining access.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:21 AM on February 18, 2013

I'm not a lawyer.

First, what does the will say? It's entirely possible that the will states the money is supposed to be held in trust for her until she's, say, 25, in which case I don't think there's anything she can do to force the issue except to age.

If the will doesn't say something like that, and her mother is really just hanging onto your friend's money with no particular legal rationale behind that, she can always sue. Might not be great for relations with her mother, of course.
posted by Flunkie at 10:22 AM on February 18, 2013

This depends a lot on where she lives. The easiest answer is to get a lawyer. If her mother is withholding money that (I'm assuming) legally belongs to your friend, then a lawyer is the only person that is going to be able to give her any credible answers.
posted by Nightman at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2013

Lawyer. If Mom is refusing to even provide details ("$x, it's in a trust, it's yours when you're 25 or earlier if you need it for school/house/business"), there's not really much of a relationship to tank.
posted by disconnect at 10:28 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

All depends on how the actual account is titled and held.

If it's a UGMA type account, most places have a standard form you fill out (and provide a notarized copy of your birth certificate) to take full control.
posted by k5.user at 10:37 AM on February 18, 2013

Your friend can most likely get a copy of the will and any trust documents from the executor of her father's estate. If the executor of her father's will is her mother and her mother is unwilling to give her access to the will and any trust documents, she may have to try to get them from the recorder of trusts and wills in the county where they were filed, rather than from her mother. She may have to get a lawyer to get a court order to get a copy.

If the money is just in an ordinary bank account with her name on it, I have no idea what she needs to do.

But if the money is in a trust for her benefit, there is nothing magic about her being 21. It's quite possible that the money is in a trust for her benefit which she will never be allowed to manage herself. It may be that she has to be 25, or graduate from college, or some other condition before it's released to her. She is entitled to an accounting of the money, however, regardless of who is legally entitled to manage it. If her mother won't give her that information, she most likely needs someone to intervene on her behalf--an uncle; a grandparent; a family friend or a lawyer.

A trust and estates lawyer would be a good place to start, if she decides she needs an attorney. Set up an appointment; gather all documents she does have concerning her father's death (will, obituary, trust documents) and write a list of questions (how much money was left to her, was it left in trust, what sort of trust, what are her rights to the money); then write a list of what she wants out of consultation (an accounting of the money; access to the money; options for her next steps). Then write a list of questions about hiring the attorney (flat rate? does that include all hours, all filing fees, all costs?) Then go to meet with the lawyer.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:41 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

The answer depends on a number of things that you don't know: was the money left in a will or as a trust? Is the account in your friend's name, the mother's name, both, or a trust's? Does "control" mean "have access to the account" or "has the confidence of the trustee"? What conditions were set up in the will or trust regarding your friend's access? Some trusts are set up so that the beneficiary doesn't have control because the person who established the trust didn't think they could manage their own affairs.

Has your friend actually asked her mother for the details? If she won't provide them, then your friend could contact a lawyer licensed to practice in her jurisdiction. If her mother is providing the details, and the problem is simply that your friend doesn't like them, there may not be anything she can do.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:41 AM on February 18, 2013

Look, this is a question only a probate attorney licensed in your jurisdiction and familiar with all the relevant facts can answer. We don't even have sufficient information to know for sure that the account in question is actually hers. There mere fact that she feels entitled to it after her father's passing is of approximately zero legal consequence. She may in fact be entitled to it, but her opinion on the subject would not be why.
posted by valkyryn at 11:55 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

A lawyer needs to go over the will with her, basically.
posted by empath at 2:00 PM on February 18, 2013

Response by poster: Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for the responses! I talked to her, and she thinks she'll be able to use persuasion to get the details from her mother, and probably won't need to resort to lawyers. I'll update if I find out anything further.

posted by zscore at 4:29 PM on February 22, 2013

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