Someone stole my inheritance. What are my options?

The man who stole money

The man who stole money

take inheritance may bring an unexpected (or predictable) financial fortune. There is only one thing you can face – people are trying to steal what you inherited. Theft of inheritance is sometimes a very real problem for people who inherit money, property or other assets. Inheritance theft laws exist to protect heirs and beneficiaries. If you are about to receive an inheritance or have received a stolen property from you, it is important that you understand the legal rights you may have to get those assets back. One Financial Advisor can help you with estate planning to minimize conflict after your death.

What is considered theft of inheritance?

Inheritance theft can take many different forms, with some being more obvious and others more subtle. Some common examples of inheritance theft or misappropriation of inheritance include:

  • The executor steals or tries to hide property in the vault

  • Trustees transfer assets from the trust for their own use or benefit

  • The executor or trustee charges too much for their services

  • Abuse authorization letter status

  • Using undue force or influence to force a testator or trustee to change the terms of their will or trust

  • Fraud or forgery in relation to wills or trust documents or destruction of said documents

Theft of inheritance can also happen on a more personal level. Let’s say you and your sister share the duty of taking care of your elderly mother. Your sister had access to your mother’s bank account and, without your knowledge, withdrew a large amount of cash from that account while your mother was still alive.

Meanwhile, your mother named you minister according to her will. After she dies, you start taking inventory of her assets only to discover that her bank account is underfunded. If you and your sister are said to have jointly inherited those properties, this could constitute a violation of your state’s theft of inheritance laws.

Is inheritance theft a crime?

Lawyers in the law library

Lawyers in the law library

Those who commit property theft, whether it is the executor, trustee, the beneficiary or another person, may be subject to both criminal and civil penalties. For example, a trustee embezzling money from someone’s property could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor, depending on state law. They can also be sued by the trust beneficiaries breach of fiduciary duty.

Likewise, a carer who steals money from someone’s bank account or coerces them into signing other assets can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor. Usually, the charge of a felony or misdemeanor depends on the nature of the theft and the value of the thing stolen. A conviction for a felony can lead to a prison sentence while the penalty for a misdemeanor is usually imprisonment and/or a fine.

The aggrieved parties, i.e. someone’s heirs or beneficiaries, can also choose to bring a civil action against the person they believe stole their inheritance. Going back to the previous example, you might decide to sue your sister for money taken from your mother. Bank account. If you win a judgment, they will be forced to return that portion of your property along with your attorney’s fees.

Inheritance theft law

Each state has different laws about inherited property, but they all serve the same purpose: Protect the rights of those who inherit property.

State property theft laws generally cover four distinct aspects:

  • Who committed the theft of the inheritance (i.e. family members, friends, carers, etc.)

  • Time of theft (i.e. before or after the death of the property owner)

  • What was stolen (i.e. bank accounts, real estate, jewelry, etc.)

  • How did the theft happen?

As for the “how” part, it is important to remember that inheritance theft can take many different forms. One of the most common examples involving financial abuse of the elderly, in which someone takes advantage of an elderly person’s impaired physical or mental condition to steal from them. This is something to keep in mind if you have elderly parents and someone else is their primary caregiver.

What can you do if someone steals your inheritance?

If you believe someone has stolen your inheritance, it’s important to review your state’s inheritance theft laws. Again, each state has different guidelines for:

  • What constitutes theft of inheritance?

  • Who is eligible to bring a civil claim or file a criminal complaint regarding stolen inheritance?

  • Legal grounds to successfully sue for theft of inherited property

  • Penalties and handling measures for theft of inherited property

Talk to an experienced person estate planning attorney can help you determine if you have the qualifications and grounds to file an inheritance theft claim. Your attorney may advise you to take certain steps to develop your case, including:

  • Inventory of assets of the estate

  • Review estate documents, such as wills or trusts, for any signs of potential fraud or forgery

  • Verify the validity of a will or trust document

In the case of larger estates, it may be necessary to hire a forensic accountant. Forensic accountants specialize in examining financial documents, which can be helpful if you’re trying to create a trail of paperwork to provide theft of inheritance.

You can also contact the person you believe has stolen the inheritance directly, although your attorney may or may not advise you to. If the person knows that you are pursuing a civil or criminal case against them, they may be willing to return any stolen property to avoid legal trouble. If your request is unsuccessful then you may have no choice but to pursue a civil or criminal case.

Key point

Hammer with scale of justice

Hammer with scale of justice

Inheritance theft laws can help protect your rights to an estate if you believe your inheritance has been stolen from you. You can also take steps to preserve your assets for your heirs by drafting a valid last wills and willsBuild trust and select trusted individuals to act, entrust and delegate to you.

Estate planning tips

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about what to do if someone steals your inheritance or how you can protect your heirs and beneficiaries from theft. Finding a qualified financial advisor is not difficult. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with up to three financial advisors in your area and you can interview the right advisors for you for free to decide which one is right for you. If you are ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, start right now.

  • If you disagree with how the executor or trustee is managing the estate, you can take steps to remove them – even if no theft has occurred. And there may be situations where you may feel the need to contest someone’s will or trust if you believe that in some way the will is invalid or that part of the trust has been lost. a breach of fiduciary duty occurs. In those situations, it can be helpful to speak with an estate planning attorney to discuss whether you can challenge a will or trust.

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Item Understanding the law of inheritance theft appeared first on Blog SmartAsset.


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