Many individuals think that the estate (property, savings, and almost all inheritance) they left behind for the family or relatives is safe. The reality is you’re wrong; it’s not as safe as we all assume.
Sometimes, people steal from your estate, which includes all the stuff you leave behind when you pass away. Remember, anyone can be a thief, including a family member, relative, friend, or even legal staff with access to your property.
Now the questions are, what happens if someone steals from the estate? What are the consequences, and how can you make sure the estate is safe? Don’t worry, as we’ll answer all of these questions below one by one.
Can Someone Steal From The Estate?
Yes, it’s possible for someone to steal from the estate left behind by someone who passed away. This stuff includes everything they owned, like houses, money, savings, and other valuable things in inheritance.
All of the inheritance legally is supposed to go to the people the deceased wanted to give it to, like family or friends, as per their wishes or the law. To do this, thieves use tricks, legal loopholes, and sometimes even create a fake will.
The good thing is there are ways to protect the inheritance from this fraud. You can also get help from the legal authorities by filing a case in the court against the accused. We’ll explain everything below in detail!
What Can Be Stolen From A Decedent’s Estate?
The first important point you should be aware of is what can be stolen from a decedent’s estate. This will help you understand what things you should protect first in case you’re the legal nominee of the will.
- Money: Cash, bank accounts, and investments.
- Valuables: Valuable items like jewelry, art, and collectibles.
- Stuff: Everyday things like furniture, electronics, and cars.
- Important Documents: Documents like wills, deeds, and financial records.
You should also be ready for some sneaky tricks. For example, someone might pretend that the person who died owed them money. They could also create fake wills with made-up inheritances, which are basically lies.
Besides that, we’ve also witnessed cases of destroying the real will, so instead of following the person’s wishes, the law decides what happens to everything. This mostly happens when the nominees aren’t from the family.
The Consequences of Stealing From The Estate
So what happens when someone steals from the estate? Well, there will definitely be legal issues, but how severe they will be depends on the trouble they’ve caused. However, here are some potential outcomes:
- Legal Trouble: The thief may face fines, probation, or jail time.
- Repaying Stolen Assets: The court might order repayment for stolen assets.
- Civil Lawsuits: Beneficiaries can sue, leading to more penalties.
- Criminal Record: Conviction leads to a criminal record, affecting future prospects.
- Reputation Damage: Family and community trust can be harmed.
What To Do If My Inheritance Was Stolen?
You can follow a few steps in case a thief has stolen your inheritance. Bear in mind to follow these points; you must have money because everything revolves around lawsuits for which you need to hire an attorney.
- Contact Police
If you think someone has tried to steal from the estate or has been successful in the attempt, contact police. It’s the most vital step because the police will create a detailed report about this theft incident.
Once the fraud report is filed, the investigation around your case will begin. The police will work to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and take necessary actions to uncover the truth behind the theft.
- Gather Proof
Don’t rely completely on the police; try to collect evidence about the incident. Find documents like a will, financial records of the property, or anything that can help. Do this while maintaining a low-key approach; the police may not appreciate your involvement in the investigation.
The moment you find any relevant proof related to the case, go to the police and make sure they know about it. Doing this will make finding the thief easier, making the case stronger and improving the chances of winning in court.
- Hire An Attorney
During this entire process, don’t forget to hire an attorney. It’s the next crucial step as an attorney can be like a helpful guide throughout the process. They’ll tell you what you can do legally and help you make your case stronger.
Keep good records of everything you do, like police reports, legal stuff, and any talks with the person who took your stuff. Try to find out whether there was any insurance coverage for the stolen estate. If yes, contact the insurance company to seek compensation.
How To Protect Your Estate? Step-By-Step Guide
After getting your estate back, ensure you don’t make the same mistake that can help thieves steal the property. Here are a few things you can do to protect the estate so it goes to the right person after your death.
- Create A Will: Make a clear and legal document with the help of your legal team that says who should get your property when you’re gone.
- Add More Executioner: Select more than one executor to make sure your wishes in the will are carried out correctly.
- Organize Your Records: Keep everything about your money and belongings in order and inform about a trustworthy individual.
- Share Everything With Your Well-Wisher: Tell someone you trust about your estate plans. This way, they can help execute your will.
Make sure the person who steals from the estate gets deserving punishment from the court. Report the theft incident, work with the police, and seek legal help from a good attorney and court if needed.
You can also seek help from us by consulting your case free of cost (Yes, we offer free consultation). We at California Probate & Trust (CPT) have attorneys who are ready to assist you in your estate matter.
Dustin MacFarlane’s primary focus is on Elder Law and protecting families and seniors. He is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Specialization — a rare distinction.
Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. MacFarlane worked in the Long Term Care industry. After becoming licensed to practice law in January of 2009, Elder Law quickly became his focus. Seeing the need during his former career, Mr. MacFarlane pursued Elder Law as a primary area of practice.