Obviously a father who steals his children's money has potential civil liability and perhaps criminal liability as well. On the other hand, parents who steal from children tend not to have substantial assets to pay judgments. The kids probably can't get the money back unless they file suit so they would need a trial lawyer. However, the children's rights must be evaluated in the first place to determine whether the father and step mother may have been entitled to some or all of what they took. In addition, there are statutes of limitations on these kinds of claims so the kids need to consult lawyers ASAP. Personal injury lawyers typically take cases on contingency but a PI lawyer probably wouldn't have much experience with this kind of claim. Trust and estate lawyers and civil trial attorneys often don't provide free consultations so set the fee terms when you make an appointment. BTW, Social Security monitors SSI so it would take some work for the father to steal the SSI. Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law.
I suspect you can get that money back, but you should absolutely consult with a North Carolina attorney, preferably in the county where the house is located, as this makes familiarity with the courts and judges there more likely.
If this was all happening in Connecticut, I would file a case in the probate court to "quiet title" to the house in the children. When one person steals money from others and uses it to buy something else, so that the money is no longer their, the probate court can create what is called a "constructive trust," meaning that as a judicial remedy they transfer the ownership interest in that property to the victims (you and your sibs) even though it's not in your name. Considering the interest and penalties involved in fiduciary theft from a trust, the ownership interest would be substantial. You could then force the sale of the house to release the cash.
Because the property is located in North Carolina, one option is to go through their version of this procedure, which is likely a little different. Your other option is to file a lawsuit for the embezzlement up here, where the trusts were "settled," and then ask North Carolina to enforce the judgment against the house, which they are Constitutionally obligated to do. Both processes are complicated, and whether you start up here or down there, you need the assistance of a veteran probate litigator.
Attorney Rosenberg is admitted to practice in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and currently practices in South-Central Connecticut with an emphasis on estate planning, elder law, probate, and tax matters. He may be contacted confidentially by email at Scott@ScottRosenbergLaw.com or by phone at (203) 871-3830. All correspondence through this website appears publicly, is not confidential, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Atty. Rosenberg. Discretion should always be employed when posting personal information online. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ All online content provided by Atty. Rosenberg on this and other websites is provided for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. All content is general in nature. Attorneys are unable to ask the questions necessary to fully understand the legal issues faced by any particular poster. Postings and responses to questions only provide general insights on the topic discussed. They are not tailored to any readerâ€™s specific situation, will not be accurate in all states, and are never updated or maintained to reflect changes in the law. No person should take action based on the information provided by anyone on Avvo.com or any other law-themed website without first consulting a local attorney with significant experience in your area of concern. Persuant to Circular 230, no online content may be used by any person to avoid taxes or penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.