La Quinta, CA asked in Estate Planning and Probate for California

Q: I inherited about $100K from my great uncle when he passed away. My parents have always controlled the money.

My great uncle passed away when I was 7 and left me an inheritance. My parents have always controlled the money, telling me that it was "money for college". They spent $10K of it on a year of a private middle school they sent me to when I was 12-13. They spent the remainder on three years of my college tuition (I had turned 18 by this point). Every time I would ask about the money, they would act closed off and tell me it was "money for college". They would never tire repeating this phrase, which was false. I now found out it was actually inheritance money from my uncle. I have never seen the money in spite of asking for it on several occasions. Is there anything I can do from a legal standpoint?

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3 Lawyer Answers

William John Light

  • Riverside, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: By your own admission your parents spent the inheritance on private school and your college tuition. How can you say you have "never seen the money"? You got the money. It was invested in your education. Unless there is something left over, it sounds like your parents acted responsibly.

Theodore Allan Greene

  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Mr. Light's answer is a good one. Just because you "inherited" the money doesn't mean you just get it at age 18. Quite often people will put restrictions into a will telling the guardian of the money how they want it spent. In your case they could have said to "only use the money for your education needs... otherwise you can use it for..." It was up to your great uncle in how the will was written since it was his money being given away. A review of the will would tell you everything... but again... if you parents spent the money on YOUR education then you really can't complain much.

Dale S. Gribow

  • Palm Desert, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: much more info needed.

however it sounds like they used the money on/for your education. That is acceptable. If they used it to take vacations or buy themselves a new car it would have arguably been wrong.

anything you do will create friction with the family and is it worth it if at first blush they spent it on you?

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