Learn Important Probate Essentials, including key things that go wrong in an estate, how to prevent them, and what to do if they happen.
What happens when you find evidence of estate fraud years after the estate was settled?
For example, what if you discover a deed that is clearly wrong? Perhaps you were led to believe that a parent died without a last will and testament, and then you later find an executor’s deed claiming that there was a will?
This sounds like a situation where someone committed fraud of some kind upon the estate and the heirs of the estate. Typically, an executor’s deed is only used when someone dies with a valid last will and testament. If there is no valid will, then an administrator’s deed is used. Although there is not a large difference in the substance of the two deeds, an executor’s deed will usually state that the deceased died leaving a last will and testament and state the date the will was signed.
When you suspect or discover evidence contrary to what you have been told by a family member who was supposed to be responsible for the estate, it often leads to suspicions of estate fraud. So, what can you do to find out whether there is fraud or not?
Before I start, I have to warn you that situations like this are very complex and I recommend that you seek the assistance of an experienced probate attorney to help you. You can click here to request a complimentary consultation with our team if you need help.
One of the first tasks is to get a copy of the alleged will that the executor’s deed refers to so you can see the will for yourself. It could be that the deed was just written up wrong or there was a typo (executor’s deed instead of administrator’s deed, for example). You should be able to get a copy of the will from the probate court (if it was filed). If the probate court does not have a copy of the will, then the situation is starting to sound a lot more like fraud.
While you are at the probate court, ask to get a copy of the entire file for the estate. That will give you valuable information about who filed what, and when. Take a look at the first petition filed – did that petition claim there was a will or no will? Do you see any later documents explaining that a will had been found? If there is no estate file at the probate court, that is further cause for concern.
These first two steps will arm you with a lot of valuable information that can make sorting out the situation easier. If it looks like some wrongdoing has occurred, then you should reach out to our office for help. Undoing these situations is complex.
Depending on how much time has passed, there may be issues with statutes of limitation or other legal barriers to taking action. A qualified probate attorney will be able to guide you on how best to deal with those issues, as well as the best strategy to rectify the fraud. Contact our team for more information.
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