Identifying Inheritance Fraud
When you hear the phrase inheritance fraud, you may be more likely to think of a Perry Mason episode than a real life situation. And while inheritance fraud is certainly a favorite topic in many classic whodunits,it is also happens in real life. If inheritance fraud goes undetected, everyone suffers — the decedent and his or her true beneficiaries.
So what is inheritance fraud exactly, and how does it occur? In fact, inheritance fraud can take many forms. Consider the following list of common examples:
- Elder care abuse — Nursing home and elder abuse occurs in facilities across the country and can be physical, sexual and/or financial in nature. In many cases of financial elder abuse, a caregiver starts out by committing small acts of theft and fraud. Eventually, he or she commits the ultimate act of inheritance fraud: convincing or persuading an elderly patient to sign a document leaving all of his or her assets and other valuables to the caregiver instead of to his or her own family members. If your loved one is elderly and suffering from a disease such as dementia, it may be difficult to determine if is or she is a victim of financial abuse. And too often, you may not realize until after he or she has passed away. If you suspect that something is wrong with the will or that it was not signed under full mental capacity, seek professional legal advice.
- Destruction of a will — In some cases of inheritance fraud, a family member is disappointed with the provisions designated for him or her and secretly destroys the trust or will. Lacking a will, state law takes over the estate and determines who receives what — this is known as intestacy. Most family members want to avoid intestacy unless they are unhappy with the details in an existing will.
- Forgery — One of the most sinister forms of inheritance fraud is forgery. Unhappy beneficiaries, family members or friends who feel like they have been denied inheritance may choose to forge specific terms of a will, fabricate an entire will or forge the deceased’s signature.
- Online scams — Unfortunately, this is a subject that is getting more severe, as the older population goes on the internet without understanding that there are people around the world who are trying to take their money. Actively ask your parents and grandparents about their online habits and make sure that they are not being swindled as is often the case. (Even lawyers are susceptible to inheritance scams.)
No one wants to leave this world thinking that his or her heirs will be fighting with each other. Yet there are times when contesting a will is necessary in order to uphold the true last wishes of the decedent. For support contesting a will that you believe is fraudulent, or for guidance setting up a clear and effective estate plan of your own in New Jersey, consult Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner with the firm, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 908-236-6457 today.