Inheritance theft. It's not something we often think about until it happens, or rather, until you know it happened. It can transpire over years without your knowledge. It can start when you are alive and can continue long after death. It happens through fraud, intimidation, lies, schemes, embezzlement. It can start out small and end up big. And it's your loved ones who will suffer most.
Here's what you need to know about inheritance theft in Tennessee and what you can do to protect yourself.
How Does Inheritance Theft Happen in Tennessee?
There are many people who may connive to receive a piece of your estate. Most of the time those closest to you are the primary culprits: family members and friends. But outsiders can also be overly friendly with the intention of gaining your trust to take part of your estate. These persons include caregivers, neighbors, or even church acquaintances.
Here are a few ways how inheritance theft occurs.
- Forged or Destroyed Documents. A relative or someone close to the family may prepare a phony will or an amendment to an actual will with the intent to give him or herself a larger piece of the estate.
- Borrowed Money. A family member or friend may ask to borrow a large sum of money and promise to pay you back. Out of good will and trust, you agree, but you don't create an actual loan document. And then, payment never comes. After your death, no one knows about the loan. Even if your family knew about the loan, they may not legally be able to collect on it.
- Lies and Schemes. A family member or friend may try to influence your feelings toward another heir by lying about him. In the meantime, the heir who is subject to these lies never knows about it and can't defend himself. With this false information, you amend your will or update a trust to reflect your belief in this misinformation. In other cases, a family member may try to gain your trust and by way of an elaborate scheme, get you to appoint him as a power-of-attorney so he can begin hiding money, forging documents, and take other nefarious actions.
These are just a few examples of how an inheritance can be stolen. It's important to be aware these situations so that if something seems out of place, you and/or your attorney can investigate it accordingly.
How Do You Protect Yourself in Clarksville from Inheritance Theft?
In a previous blog, we discuss why it is important to be transparent about your estate planning. Inheritance theft is a definite reason to be transparent with your family and friends about your intentions. The more open you are about your estate plan, the more you protect yourself from any ill intentions.
The best way to protect yourself is to are other ways to protect yourself is by establishing a comprehensive estate plan.
Wills. Make sure you have one and review it every few years or after a major life event (e.g., birth of a baby, a divorce, a second marriage, loss of a job, purchase of new property, etc.). Also, consider putting a disclosure requirement in the will so that the executor must disclose all details about the estate, including
- assets, and
- financial transfers.
Executor of the Estate. Make sure you firmly trust whomever you appoint as the executor of your estate. This person will be in a ripe position to embezzle funds from your estate upon your death so trust is key. If you are not sure whom to appoint, consider naming two executors, one being a neutral person or entity, like an estate attorney or financial planner. Such a designation provides some checks and balances that are absent when it is just one person.
Financial Power of Attorney. Make sure this person is trusted and will follow your wishes. Without a power of attorney, the court will appoint a conservator if you become incapacitated. Most people want someone they know, just be sure the person is trusted.
Estate Planning Attorney. Always consult with an attorney who specializes in estates, wills, and trusts. An attorney will advocate for you, highlight any problem areas, and provide thorough legal counsel.
The Key Takeaway
The key takeaway is this: without comprehensive estate planning, you risk someone taking advantage of you for the purpose of stealing someone else's inheritance. Be vigilant, and contact an estate attorney in Clarksville today.