We hear about new kinds of scams or frauds every now or then in several fields, so estate planning also can’t stay far apart from such kind of scams. Likewise, another type of frauds, estate planning fraud is also increasing, putting responsible and careful people at the stake of losing everything. Compared to the young, elderly adults are more prone to be tricked while dealing with property matters.
Fortunately, we can detect the fraud at an initial stage, if we carefully plan our estates and take precautions while doing that. If an elderly family member of yours is being taken advantage of by the fraudsters, then you can help if you would identify what kind of fraud is being done with him/her. There estate planning frauds are categorized in two viz. fraudulent acts and undue influence. The motive of both the frauds are same i.e. to make the person reliable on someone who they should not be to that extent that the former changes their documents in favour of that latter, however, the methods are different.
Fraudulent Acts: This type of estate planning fraud is quite easier to be recognized as a crime or a scam. Fraudulent act fraud is based on wrong statements made by a person to the elderly person who is going to sign the will due to which the latter gets influenced and change their will or the terms of a trust accordingly.
Generally, the person making such statements pretends to be a family member of the elderly person such as a long-alienated sibling, someone can claim to be in the government, etc. Fortunately, if you are able to prove that the terms of the will or trust have been altered due to some false characterization or portrayal, then the document becomes unacceptable.
Undue Influence: This type of estate planning fraud is quite harder to be recognized by the families and the victim because in such cases of fraud someone close to the victim is involved, can be a family member, a relative or a close friend. Undue influence type of fraud takes place when someone, very close to the elderly person persuades them to change their estate planning documents’ terms which are profitable to the former instead of the latter’s original intentions.
This might happen as while aging, many elderly people become fully reliable on one of their children or an outside caregiver. Showing immense care for the elderly person, such caregivers can manipulate the elderly person’s original wishes for their estate. However, it is not necessary that the caregiver scares the victim instead undue influence fraud can be done with a loving relationship as well.
In order to prove such kind of fraud, the victim’s family need to prove that the relationship between the victim and the caregiver was strong and trustable, the caregiver is getting monetarily benefits due to the changes and the caregiver can manipulate the victim to make the changes in the estate planning documents.
Measures to track down such frauds:
Secretly signed Will: If a will is not signed in presence of family lawyer, then it might be forged or written after manipulation of the elderly person.
Contrary will: It is advised to discuss your wishes with your family, it can help you to protect from fraud. If you have that discussion with your family, then your family can notice the variation in your will and can know that there is something wrong and can act accordingly.
Disinheritance without reason: If any loved one is excluded from a deceased’s will without any apparent reason and explanation, then there might be a fraud involved.
Equitable distribution: If the will reveals that the distribution is in such a way that one heir is benefited while other is excluded fully or partially without any reason or explanation in the will then it also leads to suspect that either the will is tampered or manipulated.
Measures to prevent your loved ones from becoming a victim to the estate planning frauds:
1. Hire a qualified estate planning lawyer: Avoid the websites offering DIY (Do It Yourself) wills. Being a complex process and involving so many laws, estate planning should be prepared with the aid of a professional, qualified estate planning lawyer. However, you must check their license to practice law in your state prior to start planning your estate.
2. Don’t rush: As estate planning needs vast information, hence, don’t take hasty steps and take your time before choosing the method, drafting the documents or signing them,
3. Understand: While discussing the estate planning laws and documents involved, it’s really necessary to understand them. If you are not able to do that, ask your attorney to help you in understanding. Don’t sign if you don’t understand the concept and the document.
Remember the very step to avoid or unroll the estate planning frauds is to identify them while being done and take the aforementioned steps. It’s very important to pay attention to the behaviour and signs of the elderly family member and track down if there is something wrong so that you can timely step in to save them and your family too.