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Beware Probate Fraud and Undue Influence

Making a will is a great way to express your wishes and determine how your estate should be distributed after you die. However, there are times when a person may be pressured into writing a will or when someone acts fraudulently during the course of the estate administration process, which result in the estate being distributed to the wrong people.

What To Watch Out For

While no two incidents are the same, it’s a good idea to trust your instincts when it comes to probate fraud – and if something doesn’t seem right, investigate it further.

Some examples of probate fraud warning signs, include:

  • Unusual or sudden changes to a will
  • Wishes expressed in the will at odds to that person’s previous views
  • Large sums of money transferred
  • Unusual property transfers
  • Missing valuables
  • An additional name on bank accounts
  • The signature on the Will appearing different to the person’s usual signature
  • The individual appearing nervous or stressed about their finances

It is advisable to explore anything you are unsure about but be sure to gather evidence before you accuse someone of probate fraud, forgery or undue influence. The seemingly suspicious actions could be innocent, or a genuine mistake could have been made.

When it comes to forging a will, this is extremely difficult to prove, and you may need a handwriting expert to help prove your beliefs in court and provide evidence of the individual’s previous wishes if in stark contrast to those stated in the will. However, even if you are able to prove forgery, often the person still inherits from the estate if they are a family member – as an invalid will would mean the estate would be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.

Who To Watch Out For?

Those closest to the individual are the ones with the access and means to commit fraud, which is why they are so often the culprit.

As a guide, probate fraud is often committed by:

Attorneys – with the responsibility for making financial decisions on behalf of the deceased, it’s worth looking into how the funds were handled, if you have any suspicions on this.

Executors – an executor has access to the deceased’s paperwork and property, and often is a family member who may feel entitled to more than they stand to inherit according to the will or rules of intestacy, or they may have grievances with other family members.

Carers – carers are needed at times of illness or infirmness, when someone is most vulnerable, and there are times when carers take advantage of their position to steal valuables or to influence the person’s will in their favour.

How We Can Help With Probate Fraud

Our professional Wills and Probate solicitors have the experience to handle an array of probate cases, including in times of fraud or suspicions of fraud. We can also advise you on acquiring evidence of fraud and represent you in court if needed.

To speak to one of our specialist solicitors about any probate-related query you have or to find out more about our probate services, contact us on 0800 988 3674 or 01244 311 633 or email advice@bartletts.co.uk