Inheritance Theft Protection

Protecting Yourself From Inheritance Theft

Emily Guy Birken

You might assume that your will or estate plan ensures that your money will go to your intended heirs. But inheritance theft is an insidious and underreported problem that can cost families dearly. And since inheritance thieves are usually family members, the fallout often is not only about money, but also family ties.

Here is what you need to know about the problem of inheritance theft, and how you can protect yourself and your heirs from inheritance thieves.

What Is Inheritance Theft?

Inheritance theft can take many forms, ranging from manipulating the person’s wishes while they’re still alive, to theft and embezzlement that occurs after the death.

For blended families, this issue is a common problem, even if the estate in question isn’t worth millions. According to John K. Ross IV, an estate planning and elder law attorney based in Texas, “90% of all contested probate cases are between a surviving spouse and the deceased spouse’s children.”

Of course, this is not the only way that someone other than the intended heir can get hold of an inheritance. “It goes from very small to very big,” Ross says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that Dad’s watch or Mom’s engagement ring has simply gone ‘missing’ after the funeral.”

But Ross has seen much greater inheritance theft occur. It happens when someone with access to the funds gets sticky fingers: “Inheritance thieves will often rationalize what they are doing by claiming they need a little bit of money out of the funds because of how much they are doing for the estate. But a little money inevitably becomes a lot of money because they don’t realize how deep they are until they have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

While this is, of course, illegal, this kind of inheritance theft often goes unreported and unchallenged because the heir has to use their own funds to pay the legal fees to prove malfeasance.

Forms of Inheritance Hijacking

Even without direct access to funds, unscrupulous family members can use other methods to get a piece of an estate. The following tactics are common when a relative is vulnerable to manipulation:

Undocumented Loans

Family members who borrowed money from a relative might insist that such loans were gifts after the relative’s death. If there is no loan document in place, the heirs have no recourse to get the money back from the borrower on behalf of the estate. The only way to protect an estate from this kind of hijacking is to insist on loan documents whenever a large amount of money changes hands.

Denigration of Fellow Heirs

Rather than focus on the bonds between each other, heirs are sometimes more focused on what they can do to increase their piece of the estate pie. An heir might lie about the other heirs, claiming that one sibling can’t be trusted with money, while another has more than he needs. This kind of denigration can persuade an elderly parent to change their will in favor of the lying heir. Unfortunately, it is difficult for an heir who is being denigrated to protect themselves from this kind of insidious hijacking—in part because the denigrated heir rarely knows it has happened until after it is too late.

Forging or Destroying Documents

In some cases, a family member or advisor might prepare a fake will or a fake amendment to a real will, giving the forger a bigger slice of the inheritance pie. For instance, imagine a parent who leaves most of his estate to a disabled child who cannot take care of herself. If the older sibling of the disabled child were to destroy the will, then the parent would be considered to have died intestate, and the money would be distributed equally between the siblings.

How to Protect Your Heirs

The best method of protecting your wishes is through a well-written estate plan. Such a plan includes a detailed will, a power of attorney, and trusts for your assets. For each of these documents, you will need to consult a well-vetted estate attorney (see below for tips on finding an estate attorney) to make sure your wishes are legally binding.

Here are the particular concerns you will need to consider for each of these documents.

Your Will

This is the center of your estate plan, and you can make your will as detailed as you like, so that the distribution of your property can follow your exact wishes. You can also change your will anytime you like, and it’s prudent to review it every few years to make sure that everything is still up to date.

One of the important choices you will have to make when drawing up your will is who will act as your executor. This is the person who will handle the logistical details of your estate after your death. Since this person will be managing your assets until they are distributed to your heirs, you must choose someone whom you trust to follow your wishes. An untrustworthy executor is in a position where they could embezzle funds after your death.

Most people name their spouse, a close friend, or family member as their executor. However, it’s possible to hire an executor who will be paid from your estate, and, in fact, lawyers will often perform executor services. If you have an already-contentious family situation, hiring an executor can ensure an unbiased third party is handling your estate after your death.

Financial Power of Attorney

If you were to become mentally or physically incapacitated, you would need someone to act as your power of attorney to make financial decisions on your behalf. As with choosing an executor, you need to trust that this individual will follow your wishes, since a power of attorney has control over your assets.

Without a power of attorney in place, the courts will step in to appoint what’s known as a conservator should you become incapacitated. This process is lengthy and expensive, and you have no choice in whom the court appoints as your conservator, which is why choosing your power of attorney is so important.

Trusts

In the simplest terms, a trust is a financial agreement among three parties: the grantor, who creates and funds the trust; the beneficiary, who receives the assets from the trust; and the trustee, who has a fiduciary duty to responsibly manage the assets in the trust.

Creating a trust for your assets can be an excellent way to make sure that money is available for beneficiaries unable to handle money on their own—such as minor children. In addition, certain types of trusts can provide a surviving spouse with income during their lifetime, while leaving the assets themselves to additional beneficiaries, such as adult children, after the death of the surviving spouse.

It is vital that you choose a trustee who you know will respect their fiduciary duty, since the trustee has control over the assets in your trust. Requiring two co-trustees and asking for dual signatures on all financial paperwork can help ensure that no one abuses their power as a trustee.

Actions to Protect Your Heirs

In addition to the well-written estate plan and the careful choice of anyone who will be in control of your assets, there are several other actions you can take to protect your heirs from inheritance theft:

1. Appoint two executors to your estate. Make one of your two executors a non-family professional, such as a trust company, a financial planner, or an attorney. This lowers the likelihood that your executor will take advantage of their position.

2. Discuss your estate plan with the entire family. Telling the whole clan—ideally at the same time—what your plans are will make it more difficult for any one family member to try to circumvent your wishes later. Talking about money with family can be sticky, but it can prevent a great deal of resentment and mismatched expectations.

3. Put a disclosure requirement in your will. If your will requires your executor to disclose all details about estate expenses, assets, and financial transfers, it will be more difficult for an untrustworthy executor to hide misappropriation or theft.

How to Protect Yourself From Inheritance Theft

What if you are an heir who fears your inheritance has been stolen or is in danger of being hijacked by someone else? This is a very difficult situation, since it can be both expensive to fight an inheritance thief in the courts and difficult to prove that your inheritance has been hijacked.

According to Valerie Rind, author of the book Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads, the first thing you need to do is “consult a lawyer who specializes in trusts and estate work. The attorney who handled your brother’s DUI probably isn’t the best choice.” That’s because an estate attorney will know the specifics to look for in proving your case, and will have plenty of experience in dealing with inheritance shenanigans.

It’s also important to know your rights, says Rind. While the laws vary from state to state, there are certain rights that you can count on as an heir or beneficiary. In particular, as an heir, you have the right to receive information about the will and the estate, if you request it from the executor. If the executor is trying to keep you in the dark, that is a major red flag.

In addition, you also have the right to an accounting of the estate or the trust. The accounting is a detailed report of income, expenses, and distributions from the estate or trust, explains Rind. The accounting should be in writing, and should provide supporting papers such as receipts or cancelled checks. These supporting papers should match the information on the accounting that the executor or trustee provides.

Be Prepared to Spend Money on Legal Fees

The good news is that most estate attorneys will not charge you a fee for your initial consultation. During this meeting, your prospective attorney will ask you questions about your family, financial situation, and goals. The attorney also will let you know how much you can expect to pay for your specific estate plan.

In general, attorneys ask for a flat fee to prepare your estate plan, rather than charging you on an hourly basis. The average flat fee for a relatively simple estate plan is about $1,000-$1,200, although costs can range much higher for larger and more complex estates.

If you are an heir fighting inheritance theft, you will likely have to pay your attorney on an hourly basis, since you will be engaged in an ongoing legal dispute. U.S. law firms’ hourly rates averaged $245 per hour in 2018. The average heir may experience sticker shock when hearing how much they may have to pay to fight for their inheritance.

Legal Fees for a Trust

When a trust is involved, Rind also cautions beleaguered heirs that trusts can cause increased financial headaches, because “the trust itself is a separate ‘person’ and might need its own attorney. The legal fees get paid out of the trust’s assets, so you could wind up spending the money you are fighting over.”

This is why it’s important to determine ahead of time if the fight over your loved one’s money or property will be worth the time, energy, and legal fees you will have to put into it. Legal fees have decimated plenty of estates when heirs fight long court battles over what belongs to whom.

Tips on Finding an Estate Attorney

Whether you are planning your own estate or you are fighting for your inheritance, you may feel overwhelmed when trying to find the right estate attorney for your needs. But according to Ross, you can start this search the way you start any search for a service provider: online.

“Go to your prospective attorney’s website and see what they claim to specialize in,” Ross says. “If the site says ‘estate planning, elder law, and 18-wheeler accidents,’ that’s not the right attorney for you.” Ross recommends finding an attorney who specializes in estate planning.

Questions to Ask Your New Attorney

Once you have requested an initial meeting, there are a few more questions to ask. Specifically, Ross recommends you ask the following before hiring your new lawyer:

Does my specific estate need make up the majority of your practice? 

Even within estate law, there is still more specialization, from marital trusts to charitable giving to special needs trusts. The more experience your lawyer has with your specific needs, the better they will be able to help you.

Can you tell me how this could go wrong? 

Ross states that many drafting attorneys don’t necessarily think about wills in terms of how families act in reality. If you are writing a will, you want an attorney who is willing to remove the rose-colored glasses. Your attorney should look at ways your heirs or family members could exploit vague language or legal loopholes. If you are fighting inheritance theft, you want your attorney to be up front with you about your likelihood of success.

Do you offer formal updating and maintenance services? 

It’s easy to look at estate planning as a one-and-done process, and many attorneys view it that way, as well. But attorneys are starting to offer annual or semiannual check-ins regarding your estate planning, for a nominal fee. With this service, your lawyer will let you know of any changes in the law or estate planning practices. They will ask you if there have been any major changes in your life that affect your estate plan. Finding an attorney who offers this kind of service can protect you from keeping an out-of-date will in place past its usefulness.

Rest in Peace of Mind

Fighting against an inheritance thief is both exhausting and expensive. It will not necessarily bring back the money that was taken. This is why the best defense against inheritance theft is a good offense:

  • Prepare a well-written estate plan.
  • Appoint multiple individuals as executors, trustees, and powers of attorney as a safeguard against untrustworthy behavior.
  • Be open with your entire family about your wishes.

If you do all of these things, you can feel much more secure in the knowledge that your wishes will be carried out after you are gone.

Do you have an aging parent?  Are you concerned about your own well-being as you get older? There’s plenty you need to know about healthy aging.

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62 Responses to "Protecting Yourself From Inheritance Theft"
  • navs | May 22, 2020 at 9:16 pm (Edit)
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
  • Winifred N | May 17, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    Aunt Maylee pass on February 5at 253pm. She was married for 53 years,her husband pass 4 years ago and his caretaker claims she doing what aunt maylee told her in her will. She is on dead certificate as adopted granddaughter and Bank statement, they leave no children at all. I waiting for the court to open, also she been cremated not buried so what else can be done.

  • Extra Mile Staff | May 13, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Sherry - We’re sorry to hear of your situation. A good place to start may be contacting a legal professional. Good luck.

  • Extra Mile Staff | May 13, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Alice - We’re sorry to hear of your situation. A good place to start may be contacting a legal professional. Good luck.

  • Sherry | May 11, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Hello, I had inherited a substantial amount of money and property. I am severely disabled, living in the street. Other people got a hold of my documents for settlements and inheritance and go find me money. It seems they are using it for themselves and refusing to give me money to get out of an area that is holding us in a hostage situation. I am only asking for some money right now to get myself a vehicle to get to work because I was made to lose it. And need money to get to doctor appointments. Myself and many other family members who I offered to help have been left homeless fending for ourselves with very little help. To try and teach us severally disabled a lesson. I can hardly walk from a hospitals medical malpractice and left struggling in the street to be harmed and taught a lesson. As well as others. We need help here all over. Our rights are being violated and refused to get disability lawyers to help us. Please let me know what we can do. Thank you.

  • Alice | May 10, 2020 at 7:53 am

    Hi, my older sister is dealing with the money from my mums will after my stepdad dies, I am concerned that she will claim there isn't enough money to go around and also it does apparently state in the will that my niece whom I am guardian to - her money is to go into a joint trust fund that she will share with her mum and that our cousin's with be taking over this! Can I ask my sister to put it into a the bank I have set up for my 14 year old autistic niece? Would I need to do that through the court? I really don't have the money to financially go to court or get a solicitor over this unfortunately :(( my step dad said "if you are mean to you're older sister in anyway just remember who is dealing with the money after I'm gone" now I've never been mean to my older sister I just want to see what the will actually states as I've yet to see it, also they left me and my twin out of being involved in our mums funeral - we were just people showing up and sitting there :(( while my older sister stood up with her children to sing (although she was a daddy's girl) so me and my twin who is the mum of my niece feel we don't have a say at all in the will and also are it seems being kept in the dark to what we actually come into :(( and of course if we actually also get the full amount, my niece should get 30 thousand, me and my twin each apparently will get one hundred thousand each, but sadly I don't think we're going to see that amount :((

  • Next Chapter | May 10, 2020 at 2:52 am

    Many years ago, my uncle passed away. He inherited a great deal of property and money from my grandparents and great grandparents. He did not have any children. My uncle was a lot older than my father but they were very close. They went on all kinds of excursions and hunting trips. It was well known that my uncle wanted my father’s kids to inherit what he had. My uncle died suddenly and without a will. My father died unexpectedly exactly six months after my uncle passed away. Upon my uncle’s death, he had several business, business partners and heavily invested in different things. When my uncle died, some of the business partners stepped in to assist his wife, my aunt. At the time, I was really young and had no idea what was going on. My mother and siblings had a lot going on with the loss of our father barely managing our funds and lives. My aunt was devastated with the loss of her husband and our uncle. She was never a very social person and she became more withdrawn after his death. We would check on her regularly and take her food and groceries and anything she needed or asked for. She did her best to continue my uncle’s business affairs but there was a lot to oversee and she wanted/needed to scale back her responsibilities. The business partners were helping her with the real estate and investments. The business partners are very savvy. They have created several very large successful businesses. In 1993, a trust was created that named her nephew and nieces as the beneficiaries and her will did as well. In 2003, my aunt contacted me and asked me to come and see her. She stated that she wanted me to help with managing the business affairs. She repeated that our uncle wanted us, my siblings and me to continue the legacy. However, at the time several things had transpired. Before this, I would go by and check on her but did not know her family situation. She began to tell me about her brother’s children on the other side of the country and a brother that she had locally. She told me about how successful they were and that they will not be interested in anything that she had. As I began helping her, she began telling me on a more consistent basis that I was going to inherit what she had because she could see that I would be a good steward and manage the property and assets properly by conserving them and helping them to grow. She showed me all parts of the business and her investments as well as the contents to her safety deposit boxes and explained the contents of each one. At the time, I was spending a lot of time with her trying to help her. She began giving me money. She became angry if I did not take it. I told her repeatedly that I was not helping her to take money. She informed me again that she does not have anyone else and that she wants to help me get started so that I continue what her and my uncle worked so hard for. Then, she wanted me to get married and start a family. She helped me by giving me money for a down payment on a house. While all of this was happening a few other people were trying to con her out of money and had been successful. The business partners had discovered this in the accountings but had not said anything to me. When I asked my aunt about it she explained to me what happened and that she called the authorities. The authorities investigated the people conning my aunt but no charges were filed. Then, one of the people that conned my aunt accused me of taking money from her. When I was called in by the investigator, I explained what was going on and that I was only helping her. To prove my innocence, I returned 100% of the money that she had given me and walked away. During the whole situation, the business partner that was managing the assets or her family on the other side of the country have not made any attempts to contact me or my family. My aunt and I discussed what her wishes were. She knew that she had to use various trust funds to avoid probate and an inheritance tax when when she passed. At this point, I have found out that the trust that was established in 1993, was terminated shortly after her death in 2011. An LLC was established and the house has a long term lease on it. I do not know about the status of the investments, or the status of my uncle’s or great grandfather’s business ventures or investments. I do not know if another trust was established or another business for my benefit was created. If so, it has not been communicated with me. Personally, I do not think that it has. I recently spoke with the original business partners of my uncle, they are in their 90’s and told me that I need to contact the probate office, the nephew on the other side of the country and that their son is dealing with the business partnership. Is it weird, if the intent was to have me involved that they would make an effort to to contact me. To me, it looks like if they wanted to carry out the family wishes that they would make an effort to contact me or my remaining siblings? To my knowledge, that has not happened. I am the person to give anyone the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. I have been overly patient and passive in this situation and it is starting to affect me psychologically. I need to find closure and see is what my aunt and others have told me will come to pass or not. Please advise

  • B Stone | May 2, 2020 at 2:14 am

    WARNING to everyone ……..NEVER HAVE AN ESTATE TRUST DRAWN UP WITH CO TRUSEES!! My father in-law's estate worth over 1 mil was in a trust drawn up by his wife's attorney. His intention was to let her life in the home he owned solely in his name when that got married and then after her death his son's were the beneficiaries. He thought the attorney was acting impartially. He died in Feb and she was the lone trustee of the trust. A week after his death she transferred the home into her name and TOD to he own son at her death. She took , stole all of his son's inheritance and gave it to her own son . Her son is a 60 year old man who owns his own home in FLA and a condo in Ohio. She was a woman who lived most of her life in very poor conditions according to her. Her 1st husband divorced her. Her second husband died at 54 2 months after buying a home and 1 year after buying a business …..no will so she got everything. She put it all in her son's name prior to marring my father in law, A month before my father in law's death he realized that the trust gave her too much power and he attempted to change it but her attorney wrote it in a way that she could not be removed with out her agreeing. OF course she refused and now she has everything he ever bought, earned or worked for and she never contributed a penny to, all for her own son (who my father in law stated in the trust was to get nothing of the estate, not one penny)while his own sons who worked beside him for years in his business get nothing. PLEASE PEOPLE A TRUST IS WORTHLESS IN THIS WORLD AND you are better off dying with out a will or a trust in my opinion. At least that way your actual family members will get a portion of your assets and not someone else's family.

  • Amber | April 27, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    Hi - My two siblings and I are adopted. Our father was really ill and before he passed he explicitly told me what to expect from my grandparents will (his parents). His dad, my grandpa passed away a couple of years before my dad did so it is just my elderly grandma. Her daughter (my aunt) is a trustee I believe. My aunt is not to be trusted because she is reactive. I am wondering how I can protect what my dad would have inherited for me and my family? Do I get a lawyer?

  • Corrie | April 14, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    I am heir to a house that my dad left for his children. One of my sister and her husband have decided to pay the property taxes, do some remodeling and move into the place. What can I do to stop them from taking possession of the property?

  • Jennifer Degan | April 13, 2020 at 4:25 am

    I’m inquiring about stepmother rights to grandparents estate? I’m an only child and only grandchild. My stepmother is salivating at the mouth since my papa died, she’s been praying for his death for 30 years. I’ve heard all kinds of plotting and planning to take out my grandparents who they had a mostly estranged relationship with. My father hurt me very bad when I was young. I turned to my stepmother for help and I was scolded and threatened in return and have been ever since. She is taking extreme advantage of my granny and me. I have a learning disability and I’m at an emotional disadvantage. I’m terrified of confrontation is why I haven’t tried for help sooner. Is there legal help or advice for when the elderly and disabled are being robbed financially by Intimidation and manipulation? Please let me know when available. Thank you, Jennifer.

  • Bryant | April 13, 2020 at 2:34 am

    Wow! I thought I was alone in the severity of this kind of theft and manipulation of the elderly as it pertains to their last wishes and living trust agreements. Anyway, I was an only living relative of an Aunt & Uncles living trust agreement, them living in Oklahoma and me in California. Long story short, there was no other persons to handle their funded trust except a vengeful niece believing as Patsy Fey Baker that they are controlled by god, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars through fraud and lies and eventual death of my aunt and uncle, stealing the money placed in a trust as trustees. No oversight ever done. It's a shame and I have vowed to see to their original wishes if it takes me entire life. I just wanted to say here that it is so very sad that these kinds of atrocities are allowed to happen with no accountability.

  • Diane luchterhand | April 8, 2020 at 3:50 am

    The scenario!.. I am pretty sure.. the lawyer said .....with one of the family of our passed brother... the brother that passed on had no children!... and there was nothing on internet, no record even from his military records or his doctor, but when he passed on from sickness... one day a child older age...all of as sudden appeared. No warning, no birth record!.... nothing! The other family of passed on brother all looked me with this odd smiley look... I did not even know until the funeral one said meet "your brothers... son! they said they get all the money and everything else and I am invited to the funeral...and I am a blood sister! now they never talk to me ever hardly! what I heard is there was a lot of really good stuff and it all disappeared even all the accounts and other stuff worth big cash..., cars vehicles, homes and rental of other homes he told me about.. and the same thing happen with my parents..they gave me junk. Told me to help with rummage sale ..when I got there.. they said who called t you to help go back home! Everything all disappeared and I got to go to the funeral... got some of mom's life insurance from work. her work place sent... is all I saw and both parents funeral! but that was ...years ago... and I still don't get no answer, mostly ignored!!! so I can't even say if this is what you mean... but I feel I was ripped off couldn't even take days off because of my job and they were so far away anyway... ..but that's were they hid everything from me!They were supposed to divide stuff, but that never happened either! My lawyer gave up.... said good luck and that was that!!! Question: What do they have about laws with unknown children of passed on family.. who all of a sudden appear upon a death in the family after they said they had no children? are there any laws about Inheritance law! "birth certificates signed by doctor and parents for proof of being passed on families, brother's or sister's children?...whom ever? so other don't get left out of inheritance from fake child!

  • C. Z | April 2, 2020 at 1:02 am

    Have been researching these same questions and have discovered how many of these estate companies have corrupt or questionable people involved in their companies. The pain of loosing someone is difficult enough without those things in the interim. Research these companies carefully in searching to settle your future wishes.

  • Shawn McIntyre | March 12, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    My mother passed 2 yrs ago. She is survived by 8 children(my siblings). When her will was read it left almost 80 % to one sibling. The remaining siblings all agreed some manipulation took place in the last year my mother was alive. Here is where things get difficult. 3 siblings filed suit challenging the will and against the 1 sibling who received 80%. The remaining 4 siblings agreed with the suit but did not sign on. The case eventually made it to mediation. The 4 siblings who didn't sign on were invited and told they should be there to protect their interest. However, their input was never asked for and they were not part of settlement discussions. A settlement was made dividing the 80% amongst the 3 siblings who filed and the original sibling. What are the rights of the remaining 4 siblings. Did we have a right to be heard? Do we have to sign off on the agreement for it to be final? Do we have any recourse to correct this settlement so the 80% is divided 8 ways.

  • Steven garcia | January 26, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    My dad past 9 years ago and new mexico has a law were the kids split everything in half.so there was no will and my brother and i agree d to let him be in charge..now he wont give me my inheritance my dad had everything paid off with no bills.so my brother wont talk to me and he's collecting rent from the tenants .he already took the mustang and all the tools .I cant afford Attorney cause my son has disability

  • Deb Rumberger | December 4, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Yes to the people who advised not giving one person all the power in your will because you have just placed that person in the position of doing things with your money that you likely did not foresee (unless you intended for one of your children to steal the majority of your money to build themselves a little empire, and pay their friends handsomely, and assign to themselves the property you intended to be split equally, and intentionally divide the family, and pay their corrupt elder law attorney many tens of thousands out of the estate money, and--this is important--remember YOU with bitter disappointment because what you arranged to give to your beneficiaries was your last statement and act of love to them, so don't screw it up and be overly trusting OR, even worse, deliberately punish the children you think did not love or obey you most...sometimes the "love" you are given by one child in your later years is simply an act with dollar signs flashing within their greedy brain. Truth is, if a corrupt executor/power of attorney/trustee/personal representative hires a corrupt elder law attorney, they can legally squeeze every last cent out of the intended inheritance and get away with leaving nothing for anyone else. In Pennsylvania, they are big on what they call "indemnity" or "hold harmless" agreements. The executor and his/her attorney then refuse to distribute whatever money remains after their appalling premeditated acts of theft unless every intended beneficiary signs this agreement that, in our case, says that all the corrupt actions of the executor were satisfactory and proper, and that if there were any errors in the accounting (of which they have refused to provide, and which would be too expensive to fight for since the inheritance was under a million to begin with), we promise to pay back up to every penny we inherited. I never thought about inheritance, and I never felt that money was more important than relationships, but we now no longer speak, and probably never will again, and I find this situation has left me fantasizing of murder in gory detail. Never dreamed this would happen in our super religious family.

  • RD | November 19, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Estate with a Will where everything is spelled out for distribution; two sisters have to agree on who gets whatever items left in the home of their recently deceased parents, however one of the sisters has taken it upon herself to tell family members to come and get certain items without the others sisters consent. Example- Grand kids gathered recently at home to collect items they were left by way of a drawing numbers out of a hat but while looking at these items it was noted to be a few things missing from this particular list and of course no one would admit to who took these things originally but the truth did come out on a few items but not sure what can be done legally to retrieve these items.

  • K Garcia | November 12, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Uncle spread lies about my family to caregiver and dad saying we were greedy. My dad trusted home and promised life ins. policy to disabled grand-daughter. Uncle had disabled dad refinance house so original trust no good anymore. He and caregiver then demanded power of attorney said was for emergency medical since dad in hospital. After this, no calls as promised, was cussed out by caregiver, uncle not responding and found out about 24 hrs after dad's death, he used power of attorney to put bank accounts beneficiary and trusted home in his name, etc.. Said he and other uncle took everything of dads already...did not bother asking if I even wanted one picture or anything. Don't expect anything, but uncle is already very wealthy. He is great con artist. Wonder if caregiver and other uncle know what he did.

  • Ruby | November 7, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    I am the co trustee of Mom's trust. She is still alive but brother who is the other trustee has been going to her home taking items without telling anyone. Is it possible to for me to give my powers of trustee and POA to a lawyer. Or another authority figure. I want to avoid the issues seen in this blog. My brother made sure that the trust reads a trustee may act alone. I tried to get Mom to have both trustees have to sign check and agree with movement of assets. I want everything done on the up and up.

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  • Sherri | September 28, 2019 at 3:43 am

    My sister had poa over my mom. She sold mom's house and put all the money from the house sale into her son's bank account does she have the right to do that? And I was told her and my other sister split the money so sad.

  • CalGirl | September 23, 2019 at 2:31 am

    All of this is all so BANAL and so expected. When money is the motivator, people will do ANYTHING...evil and manipulative...to gain their goal. It's a HUGE human failing & people will sacrifice their children, siblings, other relationships/whole family dynamics forever and ever......to catch their "brass ring," even if it's only a couple thousand or a few $10,000'snds of dollars (which, BTW...will be gone in months or a year or two, no matter). This happened in my birth family, where I was left to pick up the pieces, bury my parents, after my siblings robbed them in life and death of their assets, and didn't even contribute to their last dispositions, but I did. And now, it is happening again in my husband's family, almost the exact same way....

  • Terry Olson | September 13, 2019 at 5:48 am

    I am a very close friend to a heir theft. I would like to know if there is anything that I can do to help my friend who has lost his father 2014 lost his mother in a car accident 1972 in Alaska leaving behind 4 boys on a airforce base with there father whom was on TDY twice. all four boys received death benefits from social security for there life up until 18. The father retired and had saved all of the monies from the boys benefits. The Father bought property and built a home here in the northwest. promising that they would all be part owners of this estate after he passed. The boys moved out and the father married a woman with a child of her own. sold the home and purchased a new home. The father had written a will and had showed it to the oldest boy .when he passed 2014 no will was brought to any ones attention. this last 5 years that the step mom remained in the home had the oldest boy take care of all her needs. they had made him a beneficiary of two annuities The last check of the State of Washington retiring systems as sole beneficiary was received and given to my friend as he was and is a beneficiary. the step mom had written a will that only stated her daughter as a heir, leaving everything to he daughter. before she passed . as he was caring for her, she requested for her daughter. while caring for his step mom in the presence of witnesses she stated she would like her daughter to honor to her wishes and to split everything down the middle. The daughter had only a copy of the will and it is now in probate.She has excluded him from anything and stated in the probate that there is no other heirs. He is still residing in the home as this is where he has lived for over ten years. He was just served eviction papers to move she will not return any calls or letters sent . she is trying to get a quick sale on the home and has not honored what her mother had stated. . she has had full control of the bank accounts of over 200,000 and stocks over 1,000,000,00 dollars. my question is does my friend have any legal rights to contest and he has witnesses to speak on his behalf of what her wishes were before she passed. or is the step child going to rob the family of what is rightfully theirs.. and is there a time to contest this probate started on April 8TH 2019 Desperately seeking truth and justice for all concerned . please if you have any suggestions' it is much appreciated. Terry Olson ly

  • Chuck | September 8, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I find the common denominator above is the word "Sister" I too have a sister who claims we are out of money after spending thousands on fixing up our family home. Thankfully my Dad had the foresight to make me executor and named on all of his financial accounts. I went down to the bank after she said we were broke and we have to keep dropping the price of the home. There was $20,000. still in my Dads Mutual Fund account. I dont know what she planned to do with this, the situation is now unfolding, but I have to confront her in front of my family and expose her dishonesty before the house is sold and we settle up with her share of the home. There were a number of cash withdrawals from an ATM after all modifications to the home were completed.

  • Lori | August 28, 2019 at 2:04 am

    My sister had 200k six months before she passed. We find out after she passed she only has 80k and she had gifted someone. Administrator ( Who is the one who may have been gifted) and (our?) Estate lawyer tells us it's not our business who was gifted! Shady???

  • Max Frazier | August 24, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    My wife & I had a trust in made for us in 2012, saying when one of us passed on the other has control of everything. Since 2018 she has been in a home for memory care. She has 5 children from a previous marriage. At the time the trust was formed 4 of the children were left out of the trust. One was given what we had in the bank after we both passed. Now I would like change that part of trust. Being my wife is in memory care with not being able to make any changes to a trust made in 2012 because of being diagnosed by a Janice Edwards PH. D., Clinical & Forensic Psychology stating my wife has no understanding of financial responsibilities, her medical condition or being unable to make any decisions of a trust made in 2012. She requires a full guardian of both person and estate. My question can her husband be able revise the trust?

  • Lori | August 15, 2019 at 2:18 am

    My 78 year old Dad has 3 siblings. His parents died 17 years ago. My Dad wanted me to find out if his parents' property is for sale or had been sold. My Dad and his siblings do not speak. I called the County appraisers office and found out that my Dad's youngest brother is the executor of the estate. The property is in a pending sale contract and expected to be sold by February 2020. A developer is buying the property for 1.5 million. I also called the Wills Dept of the Courthouse. They will be sending me a copy of my grandparents' will. My Dad's brother, the executor, refuses to let him see the will. I wouldn't be surprised if my grandparents gave their youngest son everything and possibly left their other children nothing. If the will mentions that profits of the property should be divided up among their children, my Dad will be contacting an attorney. I believe my Uncle is trying to hoard the profit for himself, soon to be made, from that property. My Dad and his other siblings all deserve a piece of the pie. I am so angry how my Dad was betrayed by his own sibling.

  • Faylinn Byrne | August 7, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    It is really important how you mentioned that you should appoint many people as executors, trustees, and powers of attorney as a safeguard. I think in general, we do not have enough knowledge about the law to be able to go by without having to hire a lawyer to figure out our estate and will. My husband and I are thinking about this now that we have retired, and these tips will be really useful to find an attorney that will help us make the best choices. https://www.phxazlawyer.com/probate/

  • JC | August 5, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    My sister sold the family home in california and claims it was given to her by our mother who is still living but now in her death bed. She brought the money to another country by wire transfer. She is now slowly using up all the money to pay off her debts and her child's education. Can we as siblings get a part of our share from the sale?

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  • F.R. | July 28, 2019 at 4:16 am

    My dear friend left money in a trust for me, so that I would be financially secure, because I have a life long illness. Unfortunately, when she passed her attorney acted as if he knew nothing of the will, and he tried to keep me from attending the funeral, even though was listed on the funeral fund! I was given the run-around, and I don't know what steps to take because I have no legible proof, the only witness I have are my mother, and the second witness passed a month before Diana passed.

  • Ricardo Acosta | July 18, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    My sister fraudulently claimed for 11 days that she was named the executor of a will that supposedly my mother had left with instructions in a case of her passing. After the eleventh day, I became suspicious because she would only produce a copy of a living will. My sister and I live 2.5 hours away (my sister in the same town as my mom). We are a family of 6 siblings and since my mother's passing my sister has given away (to friends, family, and even grandchildren), donated, and sold my mother's belongings and divided the object and monies in a very unfair manner. She has also claimed not to have any knowledge of items that later were produced after her being pressured, others she claims she never found. I was going to establish probate here in Florida, but then I found out all that was left is a paid-off car that was in my mother's name (which required my signature in order to sell). Of course, I refused to sign off on it however, I am wondering what legal stance do I have to get my equal share of my inheritance.

  • Rebecca | July 13, 2019 at 4:13 am

    My dad was done an incredible mis service by his attorney when he wrote up his will by not informing him of something known a elective share. His will specifically left his hose and property in New York to his 3 kids. He also made us kids executors. He didn't mention his financially independent wife of 6 years in the will because he had already left her their estate in Florida along with a boat, a truck and making her a co beneficiary with his children on a life insurance policy. Because he didn't mention her specifically in the will she was able to claim disinheritance and claim an elective share. Through this elective share she was able to live in our dad's house in New York while denying us access as his kids and executor to the house or any necessary paperwork to carry out our jobs as executors. In the meantime she went ahead and distributed things in the will without our knowledge and cleaned out the entire house and property of anything of value. Under surviving spousal rights our family lost all things of value as well as sentimental items. Legalized theft we call it. Elective share laws are extremely lopsided and unfair to children of first marriages allowing greedy spouses to overreach into children's rightful inheritance. My family and I will be fighting for law reform when this is over so others won't have to go through this. It may be too late for own family, but if we can help others in the future.......

  • William Babcock | July 10, 2019 at 2:35 am

    Recently, I was informed a sibling may have stolen my mother's will. She's going to get a new one. I'm afraid that if my sibling really stole if that she will try to contest the new one.

  • Sarah | July 5, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    My step father is an accountant, he was my mums spouse and her tax accountant, he was just about to divorce my mum, after having affairs on her, she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014, she died in 2017, Mum left us her super and left him the estate, he convinced my mum to pay and transfer him everything and all of the super to avoid the Tax pay to the government. Children do have to pay tax when receiving inheritance however a spouse gets its tax free, he manipulated my mum, feuded the tax system and the government of their money, told her to remove us "her 4 children" as beneficiaries and he would take it tax free then divvy it up between the children, but once he got the money after mum died, he had the house doors locked and never spoke to us again, absolutely robbed us and fooled our mother

  • Patti | June 18, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    If I die my husband rightfully will inherit everything since we have no children and I don't want to leave it to anyone else. My problem - is my husband is too generous with his sister and she has taken advantage of him financially before. What can I do to prevent my husband to be taken advantage by his sister or anyone else for that matter? What do I do to keep that from happening if I pass away. I am inheriting from my father a lot of money and I am the only daughter that will be passed to. And, when I pass away my husband will inherit that money and I know people will try to take advantage of him since he is too generous. Thank you. Patti

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 18, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Hello, we recommend you consult with a legal professional.

  • V | June 17, 2019 at 11:37 am

    When my grandmother died I was named in her Will. My family never told me what or how much she left me. I signed something when I was 17 and in shock from the grief. I never saw the will. Am I entitled to anything years later? How can I view the will? I’m going through very tough times and they keep bringing it up but only giving me half truths. I just want the whole truth and my grandmothers wishes to be fulfilled.

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 3, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    We’re sorry to hear about the loss of your sister. It sounds like a good place to start may be contacting a lawyer. Thank you for reading.

  • Ada | June 1, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    My sister died in another state from where I live and I just discovered that people with her same last name is the Administrator and Petitioner. Plus one of them is a attorney. What can I do to REPORT this wrong doing? Who do I report too? Thank you

  • Donna | May 25, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    I was hurt in CA in 2003. I moved home to MS. The lady who was in her 70’s at the time had no children, no involved family, did several questionable business dealings. Her family was 3 dogs and she was disabled. She sold her jewelry to a pawn shop and then sold her land because she had money problems. I figured out something was not right when I asked her where she would be living. “Here.” She lived in a mobile home. Long story short she broke her foot, and she needed help. I moved her in my home, and moved her mobile home to my land. She lived next door, and her Alzheimer’s was apparent. I got a POA, and became her Health POA also. I helped her with her bills and creditors and got her out of debt. 2 women came from the church and over months had her tell me she was moving into one woman’s house so she could keep her dogs. Home health and her doctor was trying to get her in assisted living. These ladies got her to agree to pay $800.00 a month, living expenses, tried to get her to sell her mobile home, pull up her deck and fence to make the one woman’s house decked, fenced, and handicapped assessable so she could move in with her and keep her dogs. They had her changed her address,changes at the bank, she had $$ missing from her acct, and I went to the HCSO filed charges, reported it to the bank and changed her acct and added my name. She eventually hurt herself and had to move into the nursing home. These women did not not come back because I told them not to. My friend took out a Ad&d policy and 2 years later she fell. Eventually passed away, away in 4 weeks, after I put her in hospice. I got her records, filed her insurance papers, paid her debts, and arranged her funeral. If all her papers her official will, and her Ad&d insurance papers were missing. I had a copy that was not notarized, and she gave a lot of her things away and I got her to initial and date it as she did these things. So it’s been a year and her ad&d insurance paid “ someone” $150,000.00 dollars. No one will tell me who, but after all that over 15 years someone took that money. I’m not finically able to pay a lot of fees, there are things that need to be done and I’m very angry ... someone took advantage of her and left me holding the responsibility.

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  • Extra Mile Staff | May 13, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story, Susan.

  • Susan D Smith | May 12, 2019 at 4:52 am

    I wish there was real help out there for all of us . My father in law stopped talking to us about 3 years ago . Wouldn't answer our calls, wouldn't respond to the texts of his new great grand kids . Nothing. With my health issues we couldn't stop our lives to drive 12 hrs and go find out why. He got sick in April and his friend knew but didnt call us. We found out from a distant family member on a Friday headed that way and 5 hours before we got there the friend had the oxygen removed. This friend is Executor and sole reciever of everything in his will. Unless my husband and his brother show interest before he passes, this makes no sense. Not to mention this man had the oxygen removed 5 hrs before we got there. We honestly believe he neglected to call because of the clause stating show interest may have cost my husband and his brother valuable time to say goodbye and I think he was worried about him maybe pulling through and it invalidating the Will even though my husband and his brother had no knowledge of this Will or that he had received a big chunk of money from the VA in 2014. These men went to their dad in what they thought were his final hours only to have this man have the oxygen cut off. I am so sick over it and the pain it has caused them both. Finding an attorney willing to help them fight for what little their dad had left ie family photos , old family belonging their grandparents estate etc has been even worse of a dilemma. Every one connected to the Will , the executor , the estate of his grandparents and the donations in the Will of his truck and the dollar horse trailer are to the American Legion. And not one person found it right to call his sons when he went in the hospital.

  • Extra Mile Staff | May 7, 2019 at 8:29 pm

    We’re sorry to hear of your situation. It sounds like a good place to start may be contacting a lawyer. Good luck.

  • Anita | May 6, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    My father died going on 10 years ago. He set up a family friend, about 10 years older than me, to be executor of his estate. At the time of his death, the family friend challenged me and wanted me to know that she still had control of the estate- even though none of us had spoken in about 15 years. I was able, eventually, to get control of the estate. (That battle lasted for almost 2 years and ended up in court.) I eventually came to find out several months ago that said family friend’s daughter, now 23, opened up multiple accounts and got loans in my father’s name! Help!!! I have absolutely NO idea what to do or where to start?!!!? Am I liable for this!??

  • Extra Mile Staff | March 28, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Carol.

  • carol menzies | March 28, 2019 at 3:16 am

    My mother passed away just over 10 years ago, yes she made a will, she thought she was protecting mine and her grandchildrens inheritance while also protecting her husband, basically her will left myself and her grandchildren the house saying that her husband could live in it till he dies, she thought it was safe guarding both of us. Now i find he has moved out of the house because he has let it get in a state of disrepair and moved into sheltered accommodation which he told me he only uses as a mailing address as he lives with his girlfriend. He is selling the house and i told him he couldn't, he told me i thought i was getting nothing but its all mine and there is nothing you can do, i'm so upset. i knew my mother's wishes she thought her will would stand after her death but no it means nothing so why did they not tell her her will was a waste of time because her husband would get it all? The law is so wrong my mom and dad worked hard and he gets it all because he married my mom. I know she was not advised properly when making her will because no way would she have left it to him. She told me often enough that she had made a will the house was ours and he could not sell it, she even gave me her house keys on her death bed. We were so close i know her wishes have not been fulfiled and the solicitor obviously didn't advise her properly when she was making her will as any decent solicitor would have told her that everything went to her husband when she passed so she could of made a different will.

  • Extra Mile Staff | January 25, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Steven- thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Steven | January 25, 2019 at 5:43 am

    I hate seeing so much grief being shared over such a thing. My father always acted under the wishes of his father to setup a way to fulfill our inheritance. My stepmother found a powerful line in a “poorly” written trust. She was a settlor and with that sentence it gave her power to revoke. She revoked and now, we get nothing. Just a costly legal battle to appeal or charge the man who wrote the trust with malpractice. The man is in his 80’s and was a lawyer for my father and grandfather. Sad that this happened. Everyone around says to move on. My grandfather was a WWII hero and he would have flipped if my stepmother got it all. So much for justice in this country. Too easy to steal from children. My father was a victim of poor trust planning. He either didn’t know what he was doing or he didn’t explain what he wanted to us. He totally skipped over the part about telling your grown children about what to expect and what to do. He thought the document would hold up. I didn’t think my stepmother could be so evil. Greed must be the root of my suffering. I didn’t get a keepsake for his ashes or anything. We knew she would be toxic and shifty. Mediation did nothing.

  • Kate Brownell | January 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

    My family (my husband and my son) is not strong economically. Three months ago my mother-in-law passed away. We know that she had some savings and also another land. Now we have no information about the papers of those assets. How we can get the information? Should we hire an estate planner who can suggest us to get the assets or the information?

  • Extra Mile Staff | January 2, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Great input Yoshiko. Thanks!

  • Dan Devlin | December 28, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    I need legal help. My sister has confused my 87 year old mother, who just died, and convinced my Mom to change her Will and remove me from her Will. All monies will go to my sister and her 2 sons. My mom, in my opinion, was Very confused from various medicines, and did Change her Will

  • Yoshiko Flora | December 26, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for the great tip that one should find a trustworthy spouse, a close friend, or family member to be a will's executor. Aside from them, I believe that one should also find a probate attorney to help. Aside from making financial decisions on a person's behalf, they can help rewrite the will too.

  • M. Taylor | November 28, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    I have someone whos mother died left millions to her daughter in a trust, her uncle is her trustee he has taken all the money and thru out years have manipulated lied forged and left her unknowing of where anything is because its all gone the money but its not he keeps the money circulating within his business and his sons accounts so when one files for bankruptcy then the money will have already been in another account. her mother died in Santa Clara county shes in ventura county where should she begin to find out if hes still her trustee her uncle said he wasn't anymore her trustee a couple of years shes not in contact with him and now her taxes have shown up and are due she doesn't even know what's on the deed to her condo that he had bought for her even though he totally just tricked her into moving into the place its been 9 yrs since moving in. this is the first time she has received anything in her name to pay so shes not knowing where to begin not only confused with just this. life isn't perfect so she has trapped herself within the walls of her own mind like the small condo she stays in excluding herself from the world battling with cancer and plus some other health issues. its to overwhelming and before she dies she just wants to untangle the mess with her uncle. she feels betrayed and stripped of what was hers and i feel she has a valid feeling and i wish to help her but omg this is a mess where do i begin, who do i cal? Any help is so appreciated please, thank you . Sincerely, M.Taylor

  • Tim Yaotome | October 24, 2018 at 7:21 am

    I am surprised that people claiming that they are heirs without legal support can give the will writer a hard time making one's inheritance. If I were to claim myself as an heir, I would do it in the presence of a respected legal advisor. Not only will this give substantial proof that one is the rightful heir for one's inheritance but also be able to protect the departed loved one's wishes.

  • larry taschery | October 23, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    i need a really good family lawyer. my family who has integrity and is willing to help out someone who is really been done wrong.

  • Larry taschery | September 19, 2018 at 3:36 am

    I have been railroaded out of my inheritance

  • Billie perry | July 15, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    My mom passed no will i have nothing to do with one sibling the other told me they were burning my mom house.they made my bro in law executor they went thru whole house before burn.then they filed ins clain 2 heirs left me out i told fediciary .he supposed to give copies all monies rec to commissioner he did not.they did nothing to him

  • Shelly Beaver | June 21, 2018 at 1:38 am

    How can a person protect the estate when the girlfriend of 7 months steals $10,000. Cash, plus our Mothers jewelry, antiques, everything that wasn't nailed down? This woman knew our Dad was dying, and refused us entry in the house, while taking everything she could, and then slanders us on social media! She pulled the plug on his life support, without proper authority, then wouldn't tell us he passed. We learned via facebook he passed. What do we do? Isn't there some way to prosecute? Or do we lack evidence?

  • Chip Payne | May 30, 2018 at 12:39 am

    I am 68 retired no assets just SS. My partner is 62 in good health but we are going to travel. She has inherited money and there are no children or other claimants, just me. In case of the worst and she is disabled or passes away, we don't want me to lose money on probate or any other thing, I will need the money. How much in legal fees for this one will be reasonable, nobody claiming, just me.

  • Les Phillips | May 24, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    I have a Caregiver in Sheffield Lakes Ohio doing this very thing with the inheritance my father has left. What to do? I live in Georgia...

  • Vivian Reed | January 13, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    My brother hacked my sis and me. Made craigist ads with my name selling his property and commercial property. There is probably much more. My father will not see me and Im sure there is a new Trust without me. Didn't realize the whole time being duped. I still cannot access my gmail account they used to do this. I fear I will never see my dad again. I reported everything but no one is helping.

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