Greedy family members can steal inheritance from their other family members in a number of ways. They also can try to get inheritance that they are not entitled to. The way to deal with greedy family members is to hire an attorney and have them protect your rights to the inheritance that’s rightfully yours.
Before their loved ones’ death, greedy family members can convince their loved ones to give them the majority of the property or to change the will to give more to them, cutting off other family members.
After their loved ones’ death, most inheritance theft is committed either by a family member, appointed as executor or administrator, who uses estate funds for personal purposes or by a family member taking valuable property, such as an expensive painting or jewelry, prior to making estate inventory.
Greedy family members obtaining inheritance prior to loved ones’ death
Before the loved one dies, the greedy family member can either convince the loved one to transfer property to them outright, to use their power of attorney to transfer property to them or their family, or to change the will to give less or to completely cut off another family member.
Transferring property to greedy family member before death
In the first case, property is transferred to the greedy family member prior to the loved ones’ death and usually, without the knowledge of the other family members. Usually, that “greedy” family member is the one closest to the loved one geographically or emotionally or the family member taking care of the loved one. When this happens, you have a remedy. It’s important to immediately consult with a trusts and estate lawyer like us so that you can enforce your rights immediately.
When property is transferred to the greedy family member prior to the loved one’s death, you can bring a lawsuit to annul the transfer. You can claim that the loved ones’ consent was vitiated, meaning the loved ones’ consent to transfer the property was defective because the greedy family member acquired it with undue influence (among many other reasons).
Undue influence is one of the most popular reasons for invalidating a will or a transfer. Normally, to prove undue influence, you have to show motive, opportunity, and actual exercise of undue influence. Motive is easy to prove, especially when substantial property has already been transferred to the greedy family member to the detriment of the other family members. Opportunity is also easy to prove, especially when the greedy family member is the one with the most access to the loved one. The actual exercise is a little bit more complicated to prove because there is usually no witness in the actual exercise of undue influence. It normally happens when the loved one and the greedy family member are together in private. The actual exercise of undue influence, however, can be proven through circumstantial evidence. This includes a review of the loved ones’ medical records to show that the loved one was in a weakened state, the reliance of the loved one on the greedy family member for most of the loved one’s daily activities, and the fact that the greedy family member was the one who obtained the services of the attorney who would prepare the deed and was the one who gave instructions to the lawyer on what provisions to write. An experienced trusts and estates lawyer like us can help you in filing a petition to annul a transfer made to a greedy family member prior to your loved ones’ death.
Transferring property to the greedy family member, his family, his business or friend using a power of attorney
When loved ones age, they usually execute a power of attorney when they still have capacity, appointing their child as attorney-in-fact to manage their property. When the loved one has difficulty making bank withdrawals, managing his own property and affairs, paying the bills on time, or even doing the groceries, the child who was appointed attorney-in-fact steps in and manages the financial affairs of the loved one. Usually, this child is the one closest to the loved one in proximity.
The family member who is appointed attorney-in-fact of the loved one through a power of attorney is considered a fiduciary. As a fiduciary, the family member owes duties of care, honesty, and loyalty towards the principal (who is the loved one). This means that the family member always has to act in the best interests of the loved one. When a family member uses the power of attorney to transfer the loved ones’ property to himself, his spouse, his child, his business, or his friend for a price less than market value, that greedy family member may be considered self-dealing and acting with conflict of interest. It is important to immediately consult a trusts and estates lawyer like us because any transfer made under these circumstances can be considered void.
Convincing the loved one to give less or cut off the other family members in a will
When a greedy family member convinces the loved one to change the will or to create a will that gives less or cuts off other family members in the will, you can claim that the greedy family member exercised undue influence over your loved one when drafting the will. You may contest the will because when the will is denied probate, your loved ones’ estate will be distributed in accordance with New York laws of intestacy. In intestacy, all children inherit from their loved ones in equal shares.
Usually, this greedy family member who convinces the loved one to cut off other family members is the one closest in proximity to the loved one. They may live together or near each other, while the other family members live in other states, or sometimes, even in another country. This gives the greedy family member many opportunities to convince the loved one to write a will in the greedy family member’s favor, without the knowledge of the other family members. Sometimes, this greedy family member is the one taking care of the loved one without any compensation and because of this, he might feel that he is entitled to more of his loved ones’ estate than the other family members.
Regardless of the reason why you may have been cut off from your loved ones’ will, you can contest the will on the ground that the loved one wrote a provision in the will or the entire will under undue influence. As previously mentioned, undue influence requires a showing of motive, opportunity, and actual exercise of undue influence. When you are faced with this situation, it is important to immediately consult with a trusts and estates lawyer like us because there are specific time periods in which you must contest a will (usually on the return date of citation). For this reason, acting decisively and promptly is important. For more information, you can email us at [email protected].
Inheritance theft after the loved ones’ death
Sometimes, a greedy family member takes property from the estate after the loved ones’ death. This can occur in two ways: when a family member takes valuable property from the loved ones’ house after the death but prior to making an inventory of the estate, or a family member can be appointed as executor or administrator and thereafter uses estate funds for his own personal purposes.
Taking property from the estate prior to making an inventory
Sometimes, when a loved one has died, a family member who has access to the loved one’s house can already take property from the house without anyone’s knowledge. It has happened in some instances that a loved one’s engagement ring, valuable jewelry, or expensive art has gone missing from the house after his death. In this case, the executor or administrator can institute discovery or turnover proceedings to recovery property belonging to the estate. If the executor or administrator does not know where the property is, then the first part is usually instituted which is a discovery proceeding that allows the executor or administrator to inquire third parties about the whereabouts of estate property. When the executor or administrator knows where estate property is, then a turnover proceeding can be instituted to request the third person with possession to turn over the property. This will require the court to determine whether the estate indeed has title to the property and whether turn over of the property to the estate is proper.
Discovery and turn over proceedings are not only used to discover and turn over property taken after the death of the loved one, but also prior to the death. For example, if a lot of money was given to one family member prior to the loved ones’ death, the executor or administrator may institute a discovery and turn over proceedings to determine whether such money given to the family member was considered a loan or a gift. In case you have questions in this matter, you can always consult a trusts and estate lawyer like us. You can send us an email at [email protected]
Family member executor or administrator using estate funds for personal purposes
Sometimes, a family member is appointed as executor or administrator of the estate. An executor or administrator is a fiduciary who owes duties of care, honesty, and loyalty to the estate and its beneficiaries. The fiduciary should always act in the estate’s and beneficiaries’ best interests. However, sometimes, a family member might think that estate funds can be used for his own personal purposes. When a greedy family member who is an executor or administrator withdraws money from the estate account and uses it for his own personal purpose, there is an improper appropriation of estate assets.
That greedy family member can be removed as fiduciary and can be surcharged for the amount taken from the estate. You can compel the greedy family member to account for estate funds and make your objections during the accounting. If that greedy family member is trying to sell estate property to himself, his family member, or to a friend for an amount below market value, you can apply for a temporary restraining order to restrain the sale of property below market value. In all cases, the family member can be made to pay for any damage that the estate might have incurred by reason of the greedy family member-executor/administrator’s mismanagement.
Depending on the situation, there are several remedies one can pursue to prevent inheritance theft of greedy family members. If you are faced with any of these situations, consult with a trusts and estates lawyer like us so we can give you advice on the remedies you may pursue to enforce and protect your rights. Should you need assistance, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We are located in New York, NY. You can call us at 212-233-1233 or send us an email at [email protected].