Child’s Settlement Money: Where did it go?

Question: What can I do if my parents spent the settlement money I was paid after an injury accident when I was a minor? 

Question Detail: What is my best course of action for 1) finding out all the details of it? It was 1994. 2) Can I somehow request the documents from the bank it was at? 3) What are my options? Thank you. 

Answer: Iowa has conservatorship laws in place intended to protect minors and the money they receive from any settlement. The settlement might be from personal injury or it could be for many reasons, but when money is paid to a minor it’s supposed to be approved by a district court judge, an account set up, the proceeds accounted for on an ongoing basis and a bond purchased to protect the asset. The bond can be waived, although most judges are reluctant to waive the bond requirement. Before we get to the bond question you need to know more about the conservatorship documents. Keep in mind a conservatorship is a legal entity created to protect and manage assets; while a guardianship is over the person. In this case you would be looking for the creation of a conservatorship. I’d start at the County courthouse where you lived at the time of the accident. Wherever there was a lawsuit is the county where the conservatorship is most likely been created. Go to the Clerk of Court’s office at the county courthouse and ask to check for the file on any conservatorship containing your name. Court files are usually titled in the injured person’s legal name at the time it’s opened.

After you locate the file read it.

Then head over to the bank and ask for an explanation. The bank may refuse to talk with you. Don't be surprised and don't be belligerent, be respectful, because anger will get you nowhere.

You can also check with the lawyer who represented your parents at the time. He or she also represented you so there should be no problem with them cooperating with you and showing you any settlement documents. If they refuse then you’ll need to hire another law firm to do the leg work.

Then there is the bank where any money was held. Banks have trust departments in charge of enforcing any Court orders and they too can be held liable for theft or wasting of the assets.

Yes to the question about the bank and you should check at the county courthouse to see if there was a conservatorship set up. Check with the law firms in town and read the documents to see if there may have been a bond. If a bond was purchased you will be filing a claim with the insurance company writing the bond.

Get on your running shoes because you’re about to pound the pavement.

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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