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Possible signs of fraud in estate planning or administration

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2023 | ESTATE PLANNING

Your loved one’s estate plans were a crucial step in securing their legacy and making sure that their wishes were followed. So, why does it seem like something has gone wrong? Unfortunately, fraud, deception and undue influence from others can sometimes taint either the estate planning process or the administration of an estate, thwarting a testator’s true wishes.

Recognizing the potential signs of fraud in estate planning or administration can help you decide if it’s time to take action.

Unexplained changes to estate documents

One of the most significant signs of potential fraud in estate planning is the sudden and unexplained alterations to important documents such as wills, trusts, or powers of attorney. These changes may involve beneficiaries being added, removed or replaced without any clear rationale or documented consent from the testator.

If your loved one suddenly made a new will right before their death that was drastically different from prior wills and seemed to favor a caregiver who had a lot of control over their daily life, that action should be considered suspect. Fraud can also occur through manipulative alterations to beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement funds or investment accounts.

Unexplained asset transfers or missing assets

Unexplained or undocumented transfers of assets shortly before (or just after) an individual’s passing may signal attempts to manipulate the distribution of their estate. Family heirlooms, for example, may suddenly “disappear” very close to a loved one’s death, or money may mysteriously have left their bank account in the hands of their financial power of attorney without a valid reason. If real property, like land or vehicles, suddenly were “gifted” to someone right before your loved one’s death, it may be necessary to ask hard questions.

A fiduciary who isn’t willing to be transparent

Is the executor of the estate being particularly vague about your loved one’s estate and assets? Do you have trouble getting them to respond to your questions? Do their fees seem to be outrageous? If there’s a lack of transparency about what’s happening, you should consider their actions suspect. Also be wary if you notice the involvement of unfamiliar legal advisors, financial professionals or fiduciaries in your loved one’s estate administration. That could indicate collusion and an attempt to hide inappropriate or illegal actions.

If you suspect any fraudulent activities during your loved one’s estate planning process or the administration of their estate, seeking legal guidance immediately is wise.