Someone’s estate plan is among the most important documents that they will ever draft in their life. When that person dies, their estate plan establishes their legacy and protects the people who depend on them.
Especially when there are substantial assets involved in someone’s estate, the potential exists for an individual or even multiple people to commit fraud in the hopes of inheriting more. Recognizing some of the warning signs of estate plan fraud can help you decide if you need to challenge estate planning documents allegedly left behind by your loved one.
Someone produces a newer will contradicting older documents
Did your brother show up to the funeral with surprise estate planning documents in hand? Did those documents disproportionately benefit the person who also just happen to be the only person who knew about those documents?
When an updated estate plan of questionable provenance arises, it’s important to ask who the changes benefit and why your loved one would have made those changes. If no one else knows about those changes, the person who benefits from those changes may have committed fraud somehow.
The estate plan is electronic
Many older adults do not trust digital documents, so it makes sense that many estate plans still involve physical paperwork. If your loved one never used a computer, digital estate documents might be a major warning sign of misconduct. Especially when there was no attorney or notary involved in the execution of those documents, those digital documents might just be a weak attempt at someone else to defraud other beneficiaries.
When there are questions about whether the testator knowingly signed the documents
Sometimes, estate fraud involves tricking an older adult or someone with health issues into signing documents that they don’t understand.
If the date of the new estate plan implies they were signed after your loved one’s health started to decline or if the documents conflict with the instructions more recently provided by your loved one, then they may have been the victim of trickery. It’s even possible that someone forged the signature on the document for personal gain.
Recognizing some of the signs of estate fraud can help you decide if probate litigation is necessary to protect your loved one’s legacy.