Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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Are the children still minors or are they over 18?
Do you know what the terms of the college savings accounts are with regard to when they disburse funds?
And the trust accounts are in the children's names with ex listed as trustee, correct?
Have you or any of the children talked to an attorney?
Ok, with a normal custodial account like a college savings plan, the parent remains in control of it until the minor turns 18 at which time the beneficiary can demand that the custodial account be terminated and that they receive the money. So any child over 18 should contact the bank where the account is held and see what they need to file with the bank to terminate the account.
As for the trust accounts, those are a little different because with a trust, they can go on indefinitely, or have some "triggering event" that terminates them. So if ex is the trustee, then the children have a legal right once they are 18 to request a copy of the trust contract to review it and see what it says about when the trust terminates and disburses.
My guess is that the college accounts are supposed to terminate when the child turns 18, but the trust accounts may continue after that giving the trustee discretion to make disbursements up until the child turns a certain age, normally 21 or 25 or 30 after which they end and the money in the account goes to the child.
So this is going to require some investigation by the child with Morgan Stanley to find out what the terms of the accounts are and when they are supposed to terminate. However that information should be readily available from Morgan Stanley.
If the college accounts were set up by grandfather for the kids, then no, he has no legal right to take that money because it was a gift in trust to the children from grandfather.
As for the trust accounts, he would only have that power if the trust specifically granted it to him in the trust documents. That is why they need to get a copy of the paperwork and review it. But generally again, no, as the trust is set up initially for each specific child's benefit and the funds don't belong to the trustee.
I kind of suspect that he might be lying about dissolving and taking the money because as a general rule that wouldn't be allowed as it would legally be considered theft since he doesn't own the money and the accounts weren't set up for his benefit. He is simply the "gatekeeper" until the children become legal adults.
About the only way to get that information if the bank won't provide it would be from father by sending him a certified letter requesting it. As the trustee, he has a legal duty to respond to requests for information about the trust from beneficiaries. if he refused, then any air could file a lawsuit against any air could file a lawsuit against him in Probate Court and claim he has breached his fiduciary duty to them by refusing to provide information about the trust and any assets in it. Under the model Trust Code a trustee has a a trustee has a legal duty to provide an accounting to the trustee at least once a year.