“A bad forgery is the ultimate insult.” – John Grant
Once thought to be a problem that only happened in bad turn-of-the-20th-century novels, inheritance forgery is on the rise again and affecting more and more honest, trusting people.
If a will's contents come as a huge surprise like if there are unexpected beneficiaries or massively large gifts going to an unlikely person, it's time to give that will a second look.
Wills.com will tell you who to look out for and what to do if you suspect you or someone close is about to be swindled.
Who to Look Out For
The big three for those who have access and the ability to commit inheritance fraud are sadly those closest to the person being conned. Relatives, carers, and attorneys are the most usual culprits, though of course, most do not.
A relative can be a problem if in the duty of being executor, the person feels shafted, entitled to more than just the headache of dealing with the paperwork, or if they have a personal grudge against certain other members of the family who were named in the will. Keep an eye out for irregularities or odd behavior from anyone who receives a usually large piece of the pie considering their relationship to the deceased.
Carers are given a huge responsibility. They look after people in the time of their life when they are most vulnerable and therefore not on the top of their game mentally or physically. Most are wonderful, selfless people, but there are a few out there who are absolute nasty pieces of work. The number of cases seen in recent years of carers taking advantage of their charges by siphoning their life savings or bullying them into changing their wills has been on the rise. This ugly behavior of this group is one of the easiest to clock and put a stop to if you're paying attention. If not, your loved one could, literally, give away the farm to this near-stranger without any way to stop them.
The last potential person who could be mismanaging things concerning a Will is a lawyer. Many lawyers have had long-standing powers of attorney over a client who has been accused of mismanagement of funds and assets during the deceased's lifetime.
What to Look For
The best defense is a good offense.
Look out for any sudden changes to a will or mysterious withdrawals from the bank made in the months or weeks preceding death. Keep an eye out for transfers of property or big wads of cash, as well as the disappearance of valuables, such as the family silver or granny's wedding ring.
If there is a new person's name of any bank accounts or if a friend or relative takes over the management of household accounts but leaves bills unpaid, flag it and get to the bottom of it. Also note if the signatures on wills, checks, or other official documents look less-than-authentic and make sure the most current will is on file with a lawyer or safely put away in a secure area or stored digitally.
Finally, take note if a person seems confused or worried over their finances.
Of course, accusing someone of defrauding someone else is a very serious allegation, so make sure to have some evidence to back up your claims before confronting them or going to the authorities. Perhaps just going toe to toe with the trickster is enough to make them back down, but if not, be prepared for a fight. The courts can, and do, go either way on these cases, so having as much documented proof as possible will make or break the outcome.
Just stay vigilant, though, and chances are it will never come to and all will be well in the end.