I have terminal cancer. Is there any way to gain early access to the money in a trust?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 19, 2016
Martis asked...

I have terminal cancer. Is there any way to gain early access to the money in a trust? I have a trust from my grandparents that was valued at $50,000 in 1995. I receive interest from the trust each year, this year almost $2,000. I am not to get the full amount of money until I am 35. I am 28 and have been diagnosed with terminal cancer and have recently been given two months to live. I asked my uncle (the executor) for my money as I will not live to 35. He gave me $5,000 and said it was for my burial. What can I do? I live in North Carolina.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Your potential right to receive trust money early depends on the exact wording of the trust defining your interest and your uncle's discretion to dole out the trust money.

Given the complex possibilities, and the added reality that it is a wise idea to have an advocate in your corner just now, it might be best for you to contact an experienced estate planning attorney. That person should be able to eyeball the trust, inform you about possibilities, and ideally suggest creative legal alternatives.

You might best begin your search for an experienced and affordable lawyer through the North Carolina State Bar Association.

Community Answers

Dog's best friend answered...

Hi, Martis. I just wanted to say I'm so sorry you are suffering like this. I hope you have loved ones to comfort you and walk by your side. Here's a BIG (((((HUG))))) and I'm praying for you and trust that many other readers are also praying for you.

From the little you said about your uncle, I wonder if he can be trusted?! He sounds cold and indifferent to your plight. Does the trust fund money go to him, his wife or their offspring if you don't get it?? If I were your aunt, I'd do everything I could to help you get the money and offer my time and loving comfort... not just say, here's 5,000 for your burial.

Is there someone, family or not, who would help you look for a lawyer? Also, please don't assume you can't ask a caring family member or friend to help you pay for a lawyer or any other need you have. I don't know, but is there an organization, locally or in the U.S., that might ask for donations to help you right now? Please let other people take care of you:)

The caregiver's voice answered...

I agree with BK Repa's response.

Depending on how the trust was drafted, there may be language indicating release of funds in emergency situations like yours. I also agree with Dog's best friend, that your uncle's response, comes across as very cold--at least the way you framed it in your brief message.

Martis, you should review your copy of the trust document closely (or have help in reviewing it) for this language. As an heir you do have a copy of the trust document right?

My heart goes out to you now. You certainly don't need this added stress as you battle for your life.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I would consult with an attorney asap. Your illness may very well be a mitigating circumstance which allows you to get the trust early. Obviously, it's possible to get SOME money early, as your uncle got $5000 from the trust. I would either check with the bank administrator where the trust is located or an attorney. It sounds a bit suspicious to me that your uncle can arbitrarily withdraw $5000 but won't withdraw any more. I would bet that there is a loophole that allows for early withdrawal in certain instances. I hope this helps. Another person you might ask would be your grandparents' accountant if this is known, or the attorney who drew up the will, if this name is known. Good luck to you and blessings to you.