One of the biggest issues in probate cases is the alarmingly frequent occurrence of fraud. Probate is a legal procedure that takes place after someone passes away and has to do with the distribution of their assets. Sometimes the fraudster is a family member, sometimes it’s part of your legal team, but the outcome of these crimes can cause irreparable damage to the emotional state of the family and their rightful wealth.
When a person dies, their estate passes through probate. This is the court process in which all of the decedent’s debts are paid and their assets are distributed to their beneficiaries. Unfortunately, because the decedent cannot protect his or her own interests, fraud sometimes occurs during this process. Most people who commit probate fraud do so because they believe that they will not get caught. This person may have inside information on the decedent’s assets before they died or they may have special access to certain accounts.
Probate fraud can happen in many ways. The most common type of fraud is when someone produces a fake will or trust document. The decedent’s name may be forged on the document or the person forging it may also create fake signatures for witnesses and notaries public. In some cases, a person will trick an elderly individual into signing away their property to them for no consideration (money) in return. A common example of this kind of fraud is when a caretaker convinces an elderly individual to transfer all of their assets into their sole name so that those assets can be used to pay for the caretaker’s services without having to involve Medicaid or other government agencies.
This type of fraud happens more commonly than one may think. A recent example from 2021, according to an article by WTOC, former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdoch was charged in connection with misappropriated funds after the wrongful death settlement received for the family of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. Further proving the statement that these crimes are committed because the fraudster truly believes that they will get away with it.
Asset searches may help prevent probate fraud
Asset searches are a common tool used by private investigators and lawyers to help in probate cases. While there is no one simple way to prevent all probate fraud, an asset search may help to identify all assets before probate fraud can be committed. If you are considering an asset search to assist in a probate case, there are many places you should look for assets. The most common type of asset search request is bank accounts, but you should also look at other asset classes like real estate, vehicles, corporations, vessels, etc. By conducting a thorough asset search for your probate case, you can uncover unknown and hidden assets that may help your case or prove that some sort of fraud has already occurred. Assets that are hidden or not discovered until after the probate case has closed will not be eligible afterward.
While no one wants to believe that someone could commit probate fraud, it could easily happen to you or your loved one. Those who commit probate fraud are likely to do so again if given the opportunity. If you are looking to conduct an asset search for your probate case, make sure to get good legal advice. When choosing your investigator, make sure to learn about their areas of expertise. A good investigator will make sure all asset classes are thoroughly investigated and leave no stone unturned in their analysis of assets. Active Intel Investigations specializes in asset search and recovery. For additional information on how Active Intel Investigations can help locate assets for your probate case, click here.