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Can a parent stop someone setting up a bank account for their child?

(25 Posts)
StiffyByng Thu 15-Sep-11 17:11:26

Strange query I know. My stepchildren live with us and we have an extremely hostile relationship with the trustees of their mother's estate. It's a very, very long story which I won't bore you with. However, the trustees have told us they intend to set up bank accounts for the steps (12 and 9) into which they will put £10 pocket money a month. (This will be the 'maintenance' that they are willing to pay for them.) In our house, pocket money depends on behaviour. This will undermine that. Thankfully they have almost no contact with the steps and it may be possible to prevent the kids ever finding out about this, and the trustees can pointlessly transfer money from the trust fund into a low interest savings account all they want. But ideally we don't want these accounts set up in their names at all. It seems some banks allow anyone to set up a bank account in a child's name if they have their birth certificate, and the trustees have copies. I've tried to ask one of the banks concerned what they might do if a parent protested but it was obviously too weird a question for them and the customer services people got cross and cut me off, saying that as my husband wouldn't be an account holder, they wouldn't even discuss the account with him. Does anyone here know enough about banks (Halifax is the one I spoke to) to know whether a parent has the right to ask a bank to close an account opened by someone else in the name of their child?

Unlikely anyone out there will know, I appreciate, but this is the latest in a very long stream of headaches and I'd love to find out we can make it go away.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Sep-11 17:54:10

I would have thought that the bank can only act if they believe there is some kind of fraud, money-laundering or something else dishonest or detrimental going on. As the trustees have the correct identification documents, they're not acting fraudulently. When you open an account for a child as a parent, it's notionally your account and they are a named account holder. So in the case of the trustees, the same would presumably apply and I could therefore understand why you or your DH wouldn't be allowed to close the account down. There are cases where grandparents open accounts for grandchildren deliberately in order to protect it from parents who might take it for themselves.

Why not ask the trustees to put the money in an account for the children that is not accessible until they are 18? A child trust fund, for example.

StiffyByng Thu 15-Sep-11 18:47:13

They have half a million pounds to administer on behalf of the kids so this is only a tiny amount. They are doing this because they refuse to provide maintenance as this apparently means my husband and I benefit from the money, and propose instead £10 a month pocket money per child as meeting their duty to maintain the kids. As I said, pocket money in our house is earned, not a right, so we are opposed to them being given money each month. It undermines our parenting approach. This is being done deliberately.

As I said, we hope that the children will simply never know that the accounts exist, but were a bit surprised that anyone with a birth certificate - a publicly available document after all - can create a financial product in the name of a minor with whom they have no connection. Oh well.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Sep-11 21:08:45

I suppose you've already consulted a solicitor about all of this? Maintenance money for children, after all, is always given to the adult responsible for them.... it is never given to the child directly whether it's from an absent parent, the state or some other source.

puglet123 Thu 15-Sep-11 21:12:26

I had to show my DC's birth certificates when opening their accounts.

purpleturtle Thu 15-Sep-11 21:12:56

How will the DC get the money? I assume they would need to be made signatories to the accounts - I'm not sure it's feasible that the DC won't find out about them.

mandoo Thu 15-Sep-11 21:17:30

I think you have to have a birth certificate as well as have parental responsibility for a child to set up and account. I tried for my SD and was told this by my bank.

ChippingIn Thu 15-Sep-11 21:20:18

Who the hell are the trustees?? Do they really think they're acting in the way the childrens mother would have wanted them to?? ... or is that actually precisely the problem - they are?? sad

Anyway, really I would stop sweating the small stuff - it's £120 a year. The kids aren't going to be able to get their hands on it for a while anyway (they're 9 & 12 - so not really able to do stuff like that by themselves yet are they) and when they are old enough to do that, that amount of money isn't going to undermine your basic parenting - teens can spend that in a nano second!

Sam100 Thu 15-Sep-11 21:22:32

I am horrified that the trustees of your sdc's estate are not paying maintenance for them to your dh! Are they professional trustees or relatives of the children's mother? Certainly making me think about whether I have the right people nominated in our will.

Is it not possible instead for them to pay for specific things that only benefit the children e.g. sports lessons, music lessons or similar so that at least these costs are being met and your pocket money policy is not undermined?

Are they producing accounts for the trust to prove that they are not embezzling the money? My dear step sister's mum died and her uncle (mum's brother) was left in charge of sorting out the mum's estate but he took all the money and "invested" it and lost it. She never received a penny from her mum's estate.

StiffyByng Thu 15-Sep-11 23:14:59

Thanks for your replies.

Yes, this is part of wider legal proceedings. Our solicitor is disgusted by their behaviour. They are doing this because my husband refused to give them the children's bank account details. They have birth certificates because they were in their mother's papers.

They are indeed doing EXACTLY what the children's mother wanted.hmm She wasn't top at putting the children's needs first.

They have offered to consider any requests for individual items, but my husband doesn't want to be put in the position of supplicant to two complete strangers. In addition, SD has major needs as she has a degenerative disease, and our major problem is that my husband spent every penny he had on legal bills in the residency and divorce proceedings so we can't afford to house ourselves.

The trustees are a distant cousin and a recent friend. Neither know my husband and both consider him to be the devil incarnate. Not, I add, something anyone who knew both of them believes.

So this whole thing is point scoring. The trustees announced recently that they were also the children's 'guardians' and want a say in their upbringing. (They don't see or contact the kids at all and can't spell SS's name right.) It's been made clear to them that they can sod right off, and the lack of contact means they can't get the kids' signatures for accounts, but they want annual contact to commemorate the ex. Neither of the kids like talking about her, but we feel that we shouldn't say no to this, unless they're going to use the occasion - date is looming - to set up these accounts. It's an attempt to control part of our lives and we deeply resent them doing this despite our objections. Not to mention an insulting amount to contribute-they get more pocket money than that from us anyway.

StiffyByng Thu 15-Sep-11 23:16:18

Oh, and after several attempts, we finally got the accounts off them. We had to threaten court proceedings. Nothing too dodgy, bar the utter failure to invest the vast sum in any sensible way yet.

RedHelenB Fri 16-Sep-11 13:15:20

Why not let them put the money in the kids accounts (give them the details) then take it out as "maintenance" or to pay for a specific club?

I think your dh should approach them for money when expenses come
up, this is about the kids not his feelings.

Just to say, I plan to do similar if only to make sure ow never spends my kids inheritance on herself. My trustees would give money so they could continue dance lessons for eg, or go away on more expensive trips. As your step children get older, then they can ask for themselves, it's what the monies there for!!

RedHelenB Fri 16-Sep-11 13:18:22

Just to add, your step children need to have contact with their mum's family too.

Tinkerisdead Fri 16-Sep-11 13:25:59

If they state they are the guardians, how have you got custody of the children? Was custody and guardianship never discussed when their mother died? Is there not a third trustee?

I only ask because we have just written our wills, the guardianship of our children pass to our friends and they are the trustees of the estate too. However, my solicitor is an additional trustee to ensure that the interests of my children are maintained and for an impartial person to be involved in the event of dispute (or more casj being required, to pay for uni for example).

I dont understand how the children reside with you, if they state recently that they are also the guardians. Incidentally I have had to write a letter alongside my will to be considered by the family courts because the court doesnt have to abide by my guardianship, a family member could appeal it. Are you in a position to press the guardianship issue, having gained that appeal for further funds from the state?

Gonzo33 Fri 16-Sep-11 13:33:06

"Trustee's" have every right to open bank accounts for the children that they are supposed to provide for. Unfortunately only the trustee's would be able to close the account once they are open until the children are over the age of 18, when they can do so themselves (sometimes banks also do this and change the account to an "adult" account). From the banks point of view it is a data protection issue.

I really think the only way forward for you is a legal challenge because they clearly do not understand how much it cost's to bring up two children.

I wish you luck

corygal Fri 16-Sep-11 15:21:02

I'm no expert - but I can tell you right now you need a STEP lawyer. Several issues of trusteeship howl from your posts, not least that the cash is hasn't been invested properly yet.

New trustee guidelines mean that the old-style Duffer/PowerTrip trustee you might end up with can't get away with as much bad behaviour as they used to be able to. I think it's easier to get trustees sacked, too. For instance, they now have a new duty to make as much money as possible for the trust/the beneficiaries.

These people aren't the children's guardians unless they are named as guardians (using that word) in the woman's will. Trustees only have a fiduciary duty (=duty to use money to benefit the children). Keep anything that suggests/proves they don't know what they're doing.

I assume you've seen the will - who eventually inherits the capital in the trust?

And bear in mind that inheritance and related trust law is about money. Although it exclusively involves assets and families, neither commercial principles apply (except a few new ones like the above) nor morality of any kind - concepts like supporting your family, honestly, decency and any of the stuff you might find on the rest of the planet, including a family law court, won't apply. Even the very best solicitors can't make them apply sometimes, either.

If the woman dumped you with the bill for supporting her kids on her deathbed, she may have succeeded. What does the will say?

STEP Email: step@step.org
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7340 0500

StiffyByng Fri 16-Sep-11 20:29:53

Am posting on my phone so hope I can remember all points to respond to!

We have a lawyer already, who is a trust specialist in a well know firm. I'll ask her if she's part of STEP. We're sadly familiar with the absence of moral justice in all this and it's being done through Chancery rather than family court as our lawyer is more comfortable there. Sadly I don't think they are bad enough (yet) to be sacked. Our lawyer has already scared them into consulting an IFA on the use of the funds.

My husband had residency of the children before his ex died. She named one of them guardian in her will but that doesn't take effect unless both he and I die ( as we are both now named in the residency order and our wills take precedence). They are both strangers to the children and have met them twice. As I said, they can't even spell the name of one of them.

They are in contact with their mother's family. These trustees are not her family (one is a distant cousin). The ex had alienated her family when she died, and her family disapprove of and disagree with the actions of the trustees. The children are close to their maternal family, and their aunt and family attended our wedding.

We have enough money to pay for items and activities. The kids won't suffer there. What we lack is capital to buy housing, or a maintenance sum to offset the burden of a large mortgage. Having said that, the offer to consider requests was viewed even by our lawyer as a power trip, rather than a genuine offer of help. Not something we want to buy into. Neither trustee has children and they seem to view the expense of bringing up kids as pocket money and Christmas presents.

OverwroughtAsANewt Fri 16-Sep-11 20:33:31

You can apply to the court to have trustees removed, I believe. You really should consider this.

StiffyByng Fri 16-Sep-11 20:34:50

Missed out: capital is inherited by the children. Trustees say they want to preserve the whole amount for them to inherit. SD is unlikely to survive to inherit but they refuse to believe she is unwell, despite doctors' letters, because we don't claim benefits for her. As a passer by in the street can tell how unwell SD is, this in itself is testament to how little they know the kids. This is one reason we are reluctant to prevent contact: they need a wake up call.

corygal Mon 19-Sep-11 10:10:40

1. For a start it sounds like the trustees are mismanaging the money because you can set up special disabled trusts and get tax relief on that for sick children. Get free advice on this by calling HMRC trusts line - in the end you'll get a trusts tax inspector who will tell you what should be done. (You might have to start claiming benefits to qualify). So.... that evidence might help you get rid of the trustees.

2. "Trustees say they want to preserve the whole amount for them to inherit". Well, that's crystal clear. But what the trustees "think" matters not a jot compared to what the will says. Or a letter of wishes left by the mother - these are the only criteria the trustees should be using. At what age do they inherit - come into the capital?

3. Even if you do get decent trustees, they probably won't hand over a large cash sum for you to get a house to put in your own names. At the most you'll get residence in a house owned by the kids' trust. At the age they 'inherit' - ie the trust ends and they get the assets in it - the kids will own and have control over this property. The children/their partners may want to live in it themselves.

If trustees contribute maintenance that partly goes to pay for a house you buy yourselves, make sure you keep all the ownership.

I really wince at saying this, but don't labour under the impression you'll ever see much cash as compensation/payment for bringing up another woman's kids. I certainly wouldn't bank on getting a house out of it. You'd be better off getting the best-paid job you can.

TeddyBare Mon 19-Sep-11 10:16:08

Could you still use the money as maintenance? The dc will have to buy their own toiletries out of that money or something. Then it keeps the estate happy, isn't giving the dc unearned pocket money and is a good lesson in budgeting.

StiffyByng Mon 19-Sep-11 20:01:57

Corygal, thanks for the advice on disabled trusts. But I'm a bit offended by the comment about looking for money for bringing up another women's children. I have a well paid job and have worked hard all my life. The capital from the flat I have paid a mortgage on for 12 years is the only money we have to put towards the house, and I am financially supporting two children not my own together with my husband. All discussion about an investment in the house has been done on the basis that the children (through the trust) would have part ownership and that they will need to be bought out or otherwise compensated when the trust ends.

I can afford to house myself and my child, and my partner come to that, but thanks to legal bills, he has no capital so he cannot afford to house his children. (I should add that the financial proceedings had not concluded when his ex died so all the joint assets he would have been awarded to care for them went into his ex's estate and an Inheritance Act claim is not possible owing to our marriage.) What he is seeking is money invested to allow him to house his children according to their needs. Maintenance was never sought - we are both well employed - until our solicitor pointed out it would offset the costs of the giant mortgage we will need to take on in absence of any other assistance.

The ex was clear she didn't want a penny of the money going near my husband and the section of the will that says the trust should be used to financially assist the guardian, which we both have in our wills, is not included in hers.

StiffyByng Mon 19-Sep-11 20:39:09

I think (in short) that we are trying to get this money released to benefit the kids, not us. If not for them, we could buy a smaller house, or move to a cheaper area, or actually just stay where we are. Sadly for the trustees, you can't ask a 12 and 9 year old to live alone, so we have to live with them. We're likely to end up, even with some investment, in a house I wouldn't have chosen for myself, in an area I don't hugely want to live in.

corygal Tue 20-Sep-11 09:59:36

Stiffy - NOT FOR A MOMENT was I implying that you were after financial benefit! OF COURSE YOU AREN'T. THAT'S BEYOND OBVIOUS. As is the fact that I am unable to compose a coherent sentence. SORRY.

What I actually meant was... even if you/the children do get paid from the trust, you need to protect the roof over your own head. Oh, and support the children too. The upside is that from the age of 18 you should be let off the hook for paying bills eg university, any medical bills etc etc.

Also I don't see why you shouldn't be compensated financially for bringing up someone else's children - but, while in my view you have a moral claim, you probably won't see much.

Trust law can be pretty ruthless. One of my friends inherited her family home in trust from a vengeful father who disinherited his wife before he topped himself.

The court naturally decided the will was valid & daddy was of sound mind even tho he signed it 48 hours before he blew his own head off. Mum had to stay in the house bringing up the kids and working full time as a widow. She had been left penniless, and the trustees made sure she stayed that way.

Years passed, my mate left and married. Her marriage failed and she opened the post one morning to find that her ex and his new girlfriend were asking for the mum's house as part of the payoff. Thank God my mate had handed it over to her mother before she married. Sorry to be so grim, but all I am trying to do is support you.

StiffyByng Wed 21-Sep-11 08:52:15

Thanks for explaining. That's OK. I just get so stressed about the whole thing. The expense of raising them is just a given. Sadly they don't come into the money until 25 so uni stuff etc could still fall to us, but once they're 18 they can pester the trustees themselves. I do appreciate all your advice.

And interesting idea, Teddy Bare. Thank you.

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