Can an attorney/trustee be disbarred/in major trouble for withholding money from a trust beneficiary?

My friend just found out that an attorney (and her trustee nephew) withheld 2 life insurance checks (worth $108K) from her for over 6 months without telling her they had them. My friend’s mother passed away about a year ago and the estate received the checks 6 months ago. At the time, her car had broke down and she needed money to fix or get a new one, yet the “trustee”/estate attorney never notified her she had the money. Is there any legal action she can take against them for withholding the money from her for that long of period?

Asked on October 27, 2011 under Estate Planning, Georgia


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am sorry for your friend's loss and for the problems that she has been having.  But do not be so fast to jump on the attorney.  If the trust was the beneficiary of the life insurance policies then he did nothing wrong for collecting them.  Further, the terms of the trust will govern what is and what is not disbursed and when it is to be disbursed, if he can make partial disbursements prior to settleing the trust, etc.  While it is true that attorneys are held to a higher standard in many instances it can not assumed that they have intentionally with held information.  If you are unsure about his actions take a copy of the trust to another attorney to review and ask for an accounting.  Good luck.

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