ESTATE PLANNING   PROBATE   TRUST ADMINISTRATION  WILLS   INHERITANCE

Probate

 

Probate is the court process by which a last will and testament is determined to be the deceased's final statement and the court approves the appointment of the person or institution named in the will to administer the estate.

 

When a loved one passes away, you need a law firm you can trust to assist you in assuring that your loved one's wishes are carried out.  If your loved one had a will, our firm can assist the executor of the will in navigating the probate process.  Our firm can also help in the administration of the estate distribution.

Sometimes families cannot agree on the proper interpretation of the will provisions.  When these disagreements arise they can often lead to an unwillingness to resolve the dispute without a courts intervention.   Often times people have chosen the wrong individual to handle their assets after their death.  They also may have chosen the wrong person to handle their assets when they are incapacitated.  Unfortunately, the mishandling of someone's assets is not easily recognized.  It may be months or years before you or another beneficiary realizes that your inheritance was not distributed.  Whe you or another beneficiary does realize that someone has stolen your money, you face a more difficult task of legally recovering your lost inheritance.  Someone steals an inheritance when they divert the assets from its intended recipient.  This is most often done by someone destroying a valid will.  In situations involving a trust, the inheritance is stolen by the trustee simply not following the trust provisions and then trying to keep it a secret.

Our law firm can help you if you suspect foul play has occurred in regards to your inheritance.  Our firm can assist you in recovering assets and possessions for you that rightfully and legally belong to you.  The provisions of a will and trust must be followed.

How does someone become a victim of Inheritance theft?

Someone can become a victim of inheritance theft if:

  • They are subject to the influence of another person who may cause them to act against their own wishes;
  • Mentally or physically incapacitated;
  • Elderly and under the care of a family member who is estranged from the immediate family;
  • Make assuptions about how their estate will be distributed without consulting professional legal advice;
  • Recently married or divorced;
  • Estranged from family members, especially if one child is the executor of a will and the other siblings are beneficiaries;
  • Died without any immediate family members to inherit the estate;
  • Careless about who they trust to handle their estate.

I would like to share with you this true story, the names have been changed.

 "Take Care of Your Mother - or Your Mother May Get Taken"

Beth's mother, Ms. Tate, passed away and Beth had not spoken to or visited her mother in several years. When her mother died, Beth went by her mother's home and found that her mother's home was in a seriously dilapidated condition. Although Beth was aware her mother had a substantial amount of funds set aside, she was shocked when she discovered that she and her two sisters were not mentioned in her mother's will. Beth and her sisters received nothing from their mother's Estate, not her house or any of her personal property, not even a simple heirloom. All of her property went to someone else. As Beth would later discover, someone had been visiting Ms. Tate.

In the year prior to her passing, Ms. Tate's nephew and his wife began making frequent visits with her. During that time they influenced and maybe even deceived Ms. Tate into signing a new will and a new Power of Attorney. The new will did not grant any gifts to Beth and her sisters. The new Power of Attorney made the nephew the legal agent of Ms. Tate and authorized him to make financial transactions on Ms. Tate's behalf. They now could essentially do anything financially that Ms. Tate could do and were able to transfer Ms. Tate's funds and property. The nephew's wife understood the significance of a Power of Attorney (because she apparently had worked for an attorney at one time) and what kind of powers it granted, so the two were quickly able to transfer a substantial amount of Ms. Tate's funds and the ownership of Ms. Tate home to themselves. They then used Ms. Tate's funds to purchase new cars, expensive gifts for their children, and even a brand new home of their own.

By the time Ms. Tate passed away her estate had depleted significantly. Immediately after Ms. Tate died, the nephew submitted the new will to probate, and what was left of Ms. Tate's estate was given to the nephew and to Ms. Tate's two brothers. Beth and her sisters were left with nothing.

An empty toothpaste tube is a good illustration of the unfair and often times illegal transfer of someone's estate. When you hold an empty toothpaste tube, you know there is no chance that you are going to get the toothpaste back in the tube. This toothpaste illustration applies to Ms. Tate's estate and so many others. The nephew and his wife had completely depleted Ms. Tate's estate by the time Beth became aware of what happened to her mother. Beth was now faced with challenging the capacity of her mother to execute a will or sign a Power of Attorney. It would also be extremely difficult to undo any transaction that was done under the Power of Attorney. What further complicated matters was that neither Beth nor her two sisters had any funds available to pay an attorney to contest the validity of the will or to challenge the Power of Attorney. The nephew and his wife had transferred to themselves enough funds to hire a large law firm to draft the new will, and also defend against any will contest or challenge to the authenticity of the documents signed by Ms. Tate.

It would be difficult to prove, now that she is gone, that Ms. Tate did not intend to give the nephew and his wife practically everything she owned. And of course, the position of the nephew and his wife is that they were there taking care of her and were entitled to compensation. However, this explanation begs the question, why was her home in such a dilapidated condition at the time of her death? After her mother died, and Beth was able to visit her mother's home, she found the condition was so bad that squirrels had been living there. In her old age, Ms. Tate was not taken care of but rather taken advantage of. Her nephew and his wife clearly understood what they could get away with. What they did is morally wrong and possibly criminal. However, providing the necessary proof of their wrong doing would be very difficult and costly.

Perhaps it is the unpleasant subject matter of death and dying - writing your will is one of those things that can always be postponed until some "later date down the road." Whatever the reason, people too often overlook planning for their future care, should they become incapacitated, or for the appropriate distribution of their property when they pass away. Failing to plan ahead for yourself or your family can have dire consequences for everyone involved. It is critical that you encourage your loved ones to record their wishes in a will and/or trust to protect and preserve their property. You must be careful about who is appointed as your parent's agent with "power of attorney." This will prevent unscrupulous people from hijacking your parent's estate and/or your future inheritance. Proper Estate documents and planning provides protection against unfortunate situations like Beth has faced. You must be proactive in protecting your family's interests.  And....call or visit your mother.

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