When a loved one dies, it can be hard to comprehend that someone may want to gain a financial advantage at such a difficult time. Sometimes, executors of the will can attempt to help themselves to the deceased’s estate rather than following the wishes of the deceased. Fraudsters can steal excessive amounts of money, with the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners predicting that the cost of probate fraud is around £150 million. Although probate disputes can be emotionally difficult to deal with, it is vitally important that you seek professional legal advice as soon as possible if you suspect any wrongdoing in the distribution of the estate.
Here at Van Eaton solicitors in Streatham, we have years of experience in successfully handling a range of probate disputes, with our will disputes solicitors dealing with fraudulent executors and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 alike. If you suspect an executor to be acting unlawfully and not in line with the deceased’s wishes, seeking legal help is the most productive decision for ensuring that the deceased’s estate is distributed fairly and legitimately.
How to Identify Fraud
There are a range of suspicious acts to look out for in cases of executor fraud. Sometimes, these fears may not lead to any foul play, but it is best to investigate anything that seems unusual. If the deceased changed their will suddenly before they died, and included beneficiaries that the family are unaware of, it could be a cause for concern. The deceased may have been coerced under undue influence, leading to the drafting of a will that does not reflect their true beliefs. In addition, if any unusual financial transactions were made by the deceased before their death, or if the transactions were made when the deceased physically couldn’t themselves, you should investigate thoroughly to rule out the possibility of fraud.
If another person was added to the deceased’s bank accounts or if an unexpected attorney was appointed before their death, they are classed as suspicious activities that could allude to fraud, and anything you suspect to be out of the ordinary should not be ignored. A deceased person usually names their closest relatives as executors and beneficiaries, so anyone who has been named that you are not familiar with can be quite unsettling and confusing. If you suspect foul play in terms of the deceased’s estate, our will dispute solicitors are here to help. You can read more about our probate services here.
What Can You Do About a Deceased’s Estate?
If you suspect that something isn’t quite right with the handling or distribution of the deceased’s estate, there are ways in which you can investigate your suspicions and have them quashed or confirmed. You can investigate any previous wills the deceased may have made before their death; although these wills are not as binding as the final draft, there may still be evidence of unusual behaviour that influenced the latest will. Check the signature made on previous wills compared to the latest draft, and look into any witnesses and if they were known to the deceased.
Although you can conduct small investigations yourself, you should never aim to take on the law without legal advice. To avoid any legal issues yourself, you should report all suspicions to the police, and seek help from a legal professional who can assess your case and get you the results you need.