Will and trust fraud is a serious crime that can have severe repercussions. This act compromises the integrity of these estate planning documents. Worse yet, it jeopardizes the entire estate. If you suspect someone has committed fraud when creating, executing, or administering one of these instruments, acting immediately is imperative. However, you must first understand what constitutes fraud in a will and trust. Here is our guide:
What is Will and Trust Fraud?
Will and trust fraud is more common that it should be. Essentially, fraud occurs when someone intentionally employs deceptive legal practices to intentionally misrepresent the truth and cause another person to suffer losses.
To further complicate matters, fraud within the context of wills and trusts is complex and can often be entangled with wrinkles and conflicts that span generations and lifetimes.
Fraud can occur at different stages of creation, execution, and administration. Moreover, these issues involve several concerned parties and interests, so working with a premier estate litigation attorney to prove or disprove fraud in your unique situation is essential.
Here is what constitutes fraud from conception to administration:
Fraud in Will and Trust Creation
Will and trust fraud can occur starting at the creation of the document. Fraud during the creation of one of these instruments can manifest in many different ways.
For example, when creating the terms of a trust or will, if the creator receives false or misleading information about the terms, document, beneficiaries, or other integral facts about the instruments, this constitutes fraud.
Another common type of fraud is when someone pressures, or unduly influences, a person to change a will or trust. In most cases of undue influence, the coercion victim is older and suffers from physical or neurological impairments, like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Anyone close to the creator, whether it is a caregiver, friend, or family member, could potentially and subtly coerce them.
Fraud in Will and Trust Execution
Will and trust fraud can also occur in the execution stage. Fraud at this phase can take many different forms as well.
For example, if someone forges the signature of the person executing the document, this constitutes fraud. Similarly, if someone misleads the creator and misrepresents the document’s contents or intentions when signing it, this is a type of fraud, too.
Fraud in Will and Trust Administration
There are innumerable examples of will and trust fraud in the administration phase. The trustee or executor must adhere to regulations and laws and act in the creator’s interest and the best interest of the beneficiaries.
This phase is when most parties typically perpetrate the most fraud, so it is crucial to be vigilant during this stage. If a trustee or executor deliberately decreases the value of an estate or a family member hides or destroys a trust or will, this can constitute fraud.
- Commingling (mixing personal assets with estate property)
- Breaching trust or will terms
- Will and trust mismanagement
- Failure to account
- Squandering assets
- Breaching fiduciary duty
- Misappropriation of assets
- Misrepresenting financial information
- And much more
Contact a Premier Attorney to Combat or Defend Against Will or Trust Fraud
Wills and trusts are critical estate planning instruments, and these documents hold considerable power and jurisdiction over an estate. Because of this, interested parties sometimes try to commandeer and manipulate them for their gain. When this occurs, this is fraud, and contacting the preeminent estate litigation lawyer is essential to rectify this and preserve the integrity of an estate.