30 years ago my sister was given $40,000 by our father. He told me and my brother about it and told us he wanted to leave us something for our future. He said my sister would invest it and not be touched until he dies. This past January he passed and now my sister doesn’t seem to want to, or can’t discuss it she says. What can we do?
ATTORNEY ANSWER BY MARGARET L. CROSS:
What your father tried to set up for you and your brother is called an oral trust. What you are running into is what a lot of other families experience when mom or dad trusts only one child to save move for all of the children. The trusted child not longer wishes to share. Is there anything besides the fact that dad told you about it to prove that it was his intention that the money be split. That is the only way that a judge would order your sister to distribute money to you and your brother. Do you even have proof that she received $40,000? Did dad file a gift tax return to report the gift? I assume not if he didn’t want to set up a written trust. It will be extremely hard to find bank records that far back if you don’t already have them. Plus, she could easily say that he gave it to her as a gift for herself. Assuming you do find proof, a lawsuit is extremely expensive and she has $40,000 with which to defend herself. You may want to hire an attorney investigate and promote a settlement without going so far as to file a lawsuit. It will still be expensive.
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