Preventing Inheritance Theft in Your Family

If you suspect that someone is stealing from a parent or a loved one, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. The best defense in this situation is a good offense. Even if you file a lawsuit, it may not be possible to undo the transfer of property, get items that were gifted to a person returned to the estate. Additionally, it might not be possible to get property back from someone who took it, regardless of the legal rights you may have.

  1. The first step in preventing inheritance theft is to stay involved in your parent or family member’s life. If you don’t live nearby, consider how you can spend more time with your family member. Call them frequently to check in on them. Ask them about their wishes for the transfer of property or assets after they are gone, and determine whether your family member has documented these plans in a will, trust or both.

The more you are involved, the less likely someone else will have a negative influence on the family member, which could prevent situations such as undue influence.

  1. Monitor and periodically review records at the county recorder’s office or tax assessor to determine whether any title to the family member’s property has changed by a deed, a sale or any liens that have been placed on the property.
  2. Review the family member’s financial accounts to look for withdrawals that are larger than normal, and to determine whether the funds still in these accounts are enough to cover expenses.
  3. Review beneficiary designations on financial accounts, insurance policies and retirement accounts to ensure no changes have been made. Check for new joint account holders and changes to payable on death designations.
  4. Check receipts and invoices for legal fees, notaries or estate planning software purchases.
  5. Have a look around the family member’s home to look for anything valuable, such as jewelry, cash, bonds or other personal property is missing.
  6. Look over tax returns for the previous several years to determine whether any assets are missing or have been given away to others.

It’s important to discuss this with your family member before you begin digging through their personal financial information. If you’re close to your parent or family member, this is probably not a big deal.

If you’re in a situation where it’s not possible to check into these, you may have to start with the public information sources, consult with an attorney and perhaps even hire a private investigator.

The Gormley Law Office is pleased to share this information! We are a full-service probate law firm with experience in trusts, wills, probate, and estate litigation. If you suspect someone is attempting to steal from a family member, call us today to discuss your options.

© Copyright Gormley Law Office 2024

Probate, Estate Planning and Real Estate Attorney
Brian Gormley, Esq. is an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia specializing in real estate, probate, estate litigation and other matters. If you need assistance, please use the Contact Feature at the bottom of this page.
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