Theft from Estate before Inventory

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“What is Theft from Estate before Inventory? It is pretty standard to discover after someone passes away that someone is stealing from their estate, especially when they leave behind all the assets and money they own at death. Executors and beneficiaries can rob estates after someone passes away.”

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Theft from Estate before Inventory

If a person steals from an estate, the punishment can vary from the return of the stolen assets or money to as much as required to repay the stolen assets or money.

The punishment for stealing from an estate can also include more severe punishments like double damage, punitive damages, treble damages, and the disinheritance of the wrongdoer. Which remedy applies depends on the specific circumstances of each case.

In any situation in which you suspect that someone is stealing from the estate of a deceased loved one, it is crucial to consult with a qualified attorney as soon as possible. You can seek legal assistance from a skilled attorney to determine which remedy you are entitled to if Theft from Estate before Inventory.


Stealing a Deceased’s Property before Inventory

Stealing property from an estate before an inventory is taken is a crime. If property disappears from an estate without an inventory, it is always the thief’s goal to fool everyone into believing the property does not belong to the estate.

Seeing what’s missing is easy once you have a detailed account of the deceased’s properties. Once you find out what is missing, you can get it back. It is a good idea to record the interior of the home! In that case, you may have to go to probate court, and you should find a lawyer with a good reputation.

If you want to include the asset in the estate inventory, you can ask the suspect to turn it over to the estate. There’s always a chance that this won’t work, but if you have evidence, they’re more likely to return the assets to avoid prosecution. If you can’t get them to come to your conclusion, you’ll have to take them to court; a good lawyer and solid evidence are essential.


Theft from Estate before Inventory: What to Do?

The loss of a loved one can be emotional. You may not be aware that some assets have gone missing when you are busy planning a funeral and handling financial obligations.

If you suspect property theft, one of the first steps you should take is to contact a professional estate planning service in California. We’ll discuss what you can do if you suspect estate theft.


Take Inventory

Executors or administrators are usually appointed to administer the deceased’s estate. If an item goes missing, the executor must determine if it resulted from a theft or if they took it without permission. The executor should compile a list of assets and gather the necessary documentation.

As you review the estate’s assets and administration, you may notice some things that indicate estate theft.

  • Before the decedent died, was there any amendment to their will (or a codicil)?
  • Is there any family member who avoided receiving an inheritance?
  • Are there any personal belongings missing from the decedent’s estate?
  • How likely is any significant part of the estate to pass to a non-family member?
  • Was any property or items given away just before the decedent’s death?
  • Were there any witnesses to the signature of the will?


Get a forensic accountant on board.

You should hire a forensic accountant to ensure someone has not stolen from an estate. The forensic accountant will examine the decedent’s financial and property records. It is their job to spot any irregularities or missing items in the estate. If there is a suspicion of theft, they can also determine the damage caused by the robbery.


Recover stolen property

Executives may be able to resolve possible estate theft without involving a lawyer. Once the executor has identified the missing or stolen items, they can attempt to recover them.


Engage the beneficiary in communication.

As soon as you establish communication with the suspected beneficiary, you will be able to determine whether they are stealing or unaware of the legal nature of their actions. If a child of a deceased relative feels that specific photographs belong to them but didn’t go through the proper channels to find out if those items were left to them in the estate, they may feel that they own those photographs.

It might be possible to resolve these issues by explaining the estate and rules in a simple conversation. In some instances, however, a judge may have to intervene to recover the assets if the theft involves modifying or forging deeds or withdrawing money from the deceased’s bank account.


Bringing a lawsuit to court

The probate court can order the return of the missing items. This happens if the beneficiary violates the will. Probate litigation can occur if the beneficiary takes assets without permission.

It is generally impossible for a judge to disqualify a beneficiary from receiving their inheritance. However, they can make the beneficiary pay for any damages that result from the stolen estate items. The executor (or personal representative) must present evidence (through documents or testimony) to prove that the items originated from thieves. Once those assets return, the judge can order them to pay for any damage.

A judge may remove the executor from being an executor if they committed the theft. If the beneficiary faces criminal or civil charges, the judge may also remove the executor from being the executor. Determining and returning stolen property or recovering damage to items from the deceased’s estate may be complex. You will likely be able to protect your estate if you seek the legal advice of a probate lawyer.


What Are The Most Common Items Stolen From An Estate?

Stealing items and assets from an estate in several ways is possible. It is not uncommon for family members to steal items and personal property from the Grantor’s home before making an estate inventory. For example, Grantors may feel entitled to private property and items when they pass away.

They may feel entitled to specific items that are particularly valuable or nostalgic to them or have even been promised to them verbally. If the Will and Trust explicitly call out the stolen items, it is possible to locate them; otherwise, they can disappear for an unknown time.

However, the stolen items should only count as theft if given to the person as part of the estate settlement process.

The following are some of the most commonly stolen items:

  • The antiques
  • The Jewelry
  • The artwork
  • Items of collectible value
  • Hidden cash in the house
  • The furniture
  • Appliances of small size
  • A family heirloom
  • The automobile
  • Home deeds


Who Can Take Over The Property Of The Deceased?

In most cases, people who steal property before inventory are relatives close to the deceased, as they are likely to guess that something missed inventory, so nobody will notice it as missing as it won’t have been inventoried. These people include:

  • A family member consists of a child, a niece, a cousin, a brother, and a sister.
  • Friends, but they won’t be friends anymore, will they?
  • The deceased’s home nurse, health aide, or anyone else responsible for her care
  • An accounting or legal team (though it is not very common)
  • (Even rare) Strangers
  • Administrators, executors, or beneficiaries of an estate


Theft Before Inventory: How Does It Occur?

Their methods include exerting undue influence on seniors. They also take advantage of their trust. Other methods include lies, forgery, and manipulation. Other methods include threats and violence.


Theft Before Inventory: How Does It Occur?


Additionally, they take advantage of the shock and confusion surrounding the estate owner’s death. There will be so many people around that you won’t even know where to begin narrowing down the list of suspects.


Estate Looting: What Is It?

Before the Inventory, estate looting and theft could take any number of forms, including gifts obtained through lies and manipulation, jewelry theft, and fraud against the estate administrator. To discover what’s missing, it is essential to do your due diligence. Some prominent places to begin your investigation are:

It is essential to check the property’s tax records to see whether the title has changed and, if so, by what means. Title changes can occur due to a sale or deed. The tax record will provide details about any existing liens against it.

  • Ensure there are no unusual withdrawals from your retirement, brokerage, and bank accounts.
  • To check for any recent changes of beneficiaries on annuities, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and brokerage accounts
  • To determine if someone recently added to a bank account is on a joint account.
  • Review notary fees, legal expenses, other estate planning and management invoices and receipts for overcharging.
  • Checking tax returns to see if there were any heavy gifts on state and federal taxes
  • Inspect your closets, drawers, and safety deposit boxes. Ensure all your valuables are present.


When Does Theft Occur Before Inventory?

It is possible to steal assets and properties before the owner dies, such as jewelry and other expensive stuff hidden from the owner’s view by family members or the executor overcharging the owner.

There is also the possibility of it happening after death. It is common for unscrupulous individuals to attempt to gather valuables early on after the passing of a deceased estate by exploiting the shock and confusion accompanying the news. Before an executor takes inventory, several valuable items disappear. These items include artwork, jewelry, stock certificates, classic cars, and cash.

It is also possible that executors, trustees, and beneficiaries may begin stealing from an estate following the death of an owner. To avoid stealing, it is wise to monitor these individuals. If they steal, petition the court to get them out of their jobs. For example, they may intentionally leave out certain assets while taking inventory.

You will require good evidence to have an executor or administrator fired and your assets recovered. You should hire a forensic accountant to analyze financial documents and an attorney to represent your interests.


Theft from Estate before Inventory Remedies

You can do a few things if you want your stolen assets and properties back.


Get your stolen inheritance back outside of court.

If you have good evidence and a lawyer, you can always force the offender to pay back what they took. You can also threaten to take them to court. People know it as the quiet resolution of misunderstandings.


You Can Recover Your Stolen Inheritance From A Civil Court.

The most appropriate remedy is usually civil litigation. Just gather evidence and let a court make a decision.

  • In cases where the stealing executor is also a beneficiary, a judge may be able to assess a surcharge on their share of the inheritance to compensate other heirs and beneficiaries.
  • A court will order the defendant to return stolen property if you file a petition for discovery and turnover, and it turns out they stole your inheritance.
  • You are removing the Trustee or Executor. If you find an executor or trustee stealing, you can fire them.
  • Attorneys’ fees. A guilty executor will have to repay your attorney’s fees and the share of the estate they used to hire their attorney.
  • Waiver of commission. The executor of a guilty estate may also lose their commission. The commission amounts to a third of the total estate value.


Stealing From An Estate Carries What Penalties?

An individual caught stealing from a trust or estate can return the property to the estate with no further legal action required. However, legal action is always available if the individual wishes to pursue it.

States have different probate laws, which appear in the code of probate. In California, the Probate Code 85 guides estate theft penalties. An older adult or dependent adult may suffer abuse financially or purposefully stolen, concealed, disposed of estate property, or used undue influence.

When a court finds an individual guilty, the individual may also have to pay attorney fees and costs and twice the value of the stolen property.

There are several remedies the probate code offers in addition to other legal penalties available by law. These include triple damages, punitive damages, and disinheritance. The severity of the penalties and damages sought depends on the severity of the infringement.


Bottom Line

It is hard to deal with the loss of a loved one, and finding out you have been a victim of estate theft only makes things worse. When someone files a lawsuit and escalates to criminal charges, the court can impose severe penalties for stealing from an estate. It is essential to catch the theft to resolve the issue quickly. You can return the stolen assets or items by providing education about the consequences.

Protective measures are essential for an estate, and they should occur in a manner that prevents temptation from arising. Whenever you appoint a person to a position of power, such as the Executor, Trustor, or Power of Attorney, be extra careful. Grantors often prefer a professional fiduciary for these very reasons.

A second way to explain how your estate plan works, the estate settlement process, and how inheritances work is to sit down and have a transparent conversation with your loved ones. To update your estate plan so everyone involved can reach an understanding and agreement, you can air out and address family grievances and conflicts during your lifetime. By taking this action, you will curtail family infighting and prevent theft after you pass away.

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