What rights do I have regarding a stolen inheritance?

My uncle was left in charge of my great-grandaunt’s estate many years ago. In her Will, she left my brother, 3 cousins and I $40,000 to be used either at the time we went to college for our education or, in lieu of that, once we reached 35 years old we could have the entire amount. However, my uncle got into drugs and spent all of our inheritance money. My mother called the bank where the inheritance was to have been put when I was still a minor to question how much money was in the account, and the bank told her that the account was closed. I just want to know if, now that I’m 25, can I go after my uncle or the bank that was holding the money for the estate since this money was stolen from me?

Asked on June 17, 2014 under Estate Planning, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You may be able to go after your uncle, if he violated his fiduciary duty (the duty imposed on him as someone given control over another's assets or other an estate, to use those assets or estate for the intended beneficiaries or in accordance with instructions), though it might be too late at this point, depending on, for example, when the misappropriation of money was discovered (there is a time limit on how long you have to take legal action). If you want to explore this option, consult with an attorney *immediately*, before any more time goes by.

The bank would almost certainly not be liable, unless you can show they did something wrong (e.g. your uncle was not supposed to have access to the account(s), but they let him access them anyway); that's because the bank did not have a duty to see how the funds were used or by whom, but only to make sure that only the authorized person(s) withdrew money.

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