Probate fraud is an attempt to deliberately deny the heirs and beneficiaries of an estate of their rightful inheritance. Some methods include:
Abusing power of attorney
Suppressing the will
Inventing fake debts against the estate
Coercing the testator before death
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Fraud can be committed by people in your service or even people that are close to you. Common suspects include:
There are signs that you can look for if you suspect that someone is committing probate fraud or attempting to scam someone close to you.
What to do when suspecting probate fraud.
If you have suspicions, it is usually best to look into the matter discreetly, without making your suspicions widely known. Sometimes, there are perfectly reasonable explanations for signs that you notice.
I.T.G Probate Valuations advises before doing anything rash, make sure that you collect as much evidence of probate fraud as possible. A common sign of probate fraud is a sudden change in the will, just before someone dies – make sure to collect any previous wills, codicils and notes. You may even need to look at the will of the deceased’s spouse or partner.
You should also investigate into who witnessed the signing of the will, as well as where the will was signed and where it was registered.
The best preventative measure would be to make a solid will and appointing trustworthy executors. When you die intestate, there are many variables that could lead to complications. Relatives might have differing ideas than the ones set out by laws of intestacy and could decide to take matters into their own hands.
Executors need to seek professional legal advice if they encounter difficulties when dealing with fraud or contentious probate. Be particularly mindful of will changes, items disappearing, money transfers or unexplained withdrawals.
Will Fraud Prevention Checklist
As a precaution against the possibility of subsequent tampering with the will and fraud:
1. The date of the will should be expressed in words rather than figures (words are more difficult to alter than figures) and any sums of money should be expressed in words followed by the sum in brackets expressed in figures.
2. Each page of the will should be numbered and signed by you and by the witnesses as close to the last line on the page as possible to prevent anything being inserted.
3. Try to avoid making any alteration, interlineations or obliterations, but if they are unavoidable, you and your witnesses should each write his or her respective initials as close as possible to them to authenticate them
4. The gaps at the end of each line and paragraph should be ruled through.
5. The same pen should be used by you and by the witnesses when signing to indicate that all signed at the same time.
6. If you are blind or otherwise unable to read, have someone other than the person who prepared the will read it over to you before it is signed.
Finally never attach a pin or fasten anything to the will, even with a paperclip.