Probate fraud: How to spot it and what you can do about it
Probate fraud is unfortunately common in the UK. It takes many forms and can occur both before or after someone has died.
Probate fraud is committed by a range of individuals, including executors, family members, neighbours, carers, friends and career fraudsters.
We are frequently asked to advise on cases where an executor has taken advantage of their position of trust and financial control of a deceased’s affairs. Executor fraud tends to occur in cases where the executor has taken sole personal responsibility for administering an estate, refusing to use the services of an independent solicitor to oversee the probate process. In these situations beneficiaries can be forced to take legal action against the executor to remove them from office and recover the money and assets they have been cheated out of.
Homemade or online wills are particularly vulnerable to fraudulent activity. Some wills are known to be outright forgeries with fake signatures. Fraud can also occur where people are confused, unwell or vulnerable, allowing unscrupulous individuals to coerce or deceive them to change their will. Look out for unusual or uncharacteristic changes to wills that have been made shortly before they died, especially where new beneficiaries are named.
Where will fraud is suspected it is a good idea to examine the deceased’s previous wills, and to look at whether the signature appears authentic. You should also check the identity of the two witnesses. Were they known to the deceased? Are their details genuine?
Attorneys who have been appointed to manage someone’s financial affairs can act unscrupulously by making unauthorised cash withdrawals or bank transfers, or by making gifts either to themselves or people associated with them.
Involving the police
When fraud occurs you may wish to report the matter to the police. The police have extensive powers to investigate financial fraud and can gain access to bank accounts, computers and mobile phones. If they believe that there is a good possibility of a criminal conviction then they may refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Making a probate fraud claim
The civil law is quite separate from the criminal law. Not only is the burden of proof much lower in the civil courts, but claimants can recover financial compensation for their losses.
We are experienced in dealing with probate fraud cases. We can assist with investigating the allegations and gathering thee evidence to substantiate the civil claim.
We offer a range of funding options for investigatory work, including fixed fees.
In cases where sufficient evidence of fraud has been established then we are always willing to consider funding claims on a no win, no fee basis.
For further guidance on probate fraud and how we can help you call us on 0333 888 0404 or email us at [email protected]