What do I do if I suspect my brother or sister has somehow stolen my inheritance?
This is a growing problem. Before the repeal of Indiana Inheritance Tax, joint accounts were frozen at death. A release from the Indiana Inheritance Tax Office was necessary for release of the accounts. This usually required an attorney and people were made aware of their rights and obligations under the law.
With families spread out across the country, often only one child lives close enough to help mom or dad. In this difficult financial environment, it has become increasingly common for that child to overreach his or her parent and insist on being joint on bank accounts, cars, and real estate under the guise that it will be easier to help their parent manage their finances. While mom or dad’s Will may leave all of their assets to their three children equally, the assets all pass to the joint owner child by operation of law at death, to the exclusion of the other two children. The siblings are often told that their parents spent all of their money in their later years on their care and there is nothing left to pass under the Will through an estate.
How we assist in helping clients in inheritance matters
We can assist in finding these assets through tax returns, bank records, and real estate records. If mom or dad was ill, of diminished mental capacity, or dependent upon the local child, we may be able to recover these assets for the benefit of all siblings. There are legal and practical time limitations, so you should contact us immediately.
Sometimes the Will or Trust is changed to disinherit siblings. While a Will or Trust can be changed at any time, they cannot be changed after the maker is of unsound mind or if the maker is under pressure or duress from someone. We can assist with Will Contests. And the attorney fees to do so are recoverable from the estate.
Act immediately – Will contest actions must be filed quickly to preserve rights
A Will Contest must be filed within three months after the date of the Order admitting the Will to probate by filing an affidavit in the Court alleging (1) unsoundness of mind of the testator, (2) that the Will was executed under duress or was obtained by fraud, (3) the undue (improper) execution of the Will, or (4) any other valid objection to the Will’s validity or the probate of the Will.
Another common area of abuse is misuse of the financial Power of Attorney or successor trustee document after mom or dad’s incompetence for the benefit of the local child acting as attorney in fact under the Power of Attorney, or as successor trustee, to transfer mom or dad’s assets to the local child or to use mom or dad’s assets to pay for the local child’s bills, travel, or vehicles. We can assist in demanding and obtaining an accounting and recovering misused or stolen assets. Again, there are legal and practical time limits, so contact us immediately.
Will and Trust contests are a growing area of our practice. If you suspect wrong doing, contact us for a free telephone consultation. You should trust your gut on this one and call before the stolen assets are spent.