Making the Case: Common Forms of Inheritance Theft

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Like many people, you will work for most of your adulthood, amassing as much wealth as possible to guarantee a comfortable life for your family after you retire. This is no doubt commendable, but you might not want the future generations in your family to work as hard as you did to get half of what you achieved. It is therefore essential to put safeguards in place that guarantee as much of your wealth as possible will be passed on to your loved ones.

This need for security has caused the rise in popularity of estate planning documents and online estate planning guidance platforms. For some people, a  family law attorney based in Santa Fe NM might seem unimportant or unnecessary, given the options available for DIY estate planning. Attempting to go out alone, however, has left many people prone to inheritance theft and heirs dragged through years of costly and emotionally draining court battles. Unfortunately, inheritance theft is not as readily evident as other forms of crime. The following are the commonly seen forms of inheritance theft nowadays.

Denigration of Heirs

Unfortunately, wealth seems to bring out the worst of human nature. For some families, the potential heirs to a property might focus on some underhanded tactics to gain an unfair advantage over the others. One of the common options here is the denigration of heirs. This usually includes telling a testator or testatrix the disadvantages of leaving an asset to another heir. The person can, for instance, influence the testator or testatrix to minimize the money they leave to an heir, if that heir is a drug or gambling addict. While some of the allegations and reasons for doing this might be well-informed, it is challenging if not altogether impossible to separate a genuine concern for an heir from a ploy to reduce his or her inheritance.

Destroying or Forging Documents

Even the most complex of documents can be forged nowadays with the right technology. Your will and other estate planning documents can thus be forged by an heir who finds their provisions unfavorable. Other people might opt to destroy the documents altogether so that your estate is distributed according to your state’s probate laws.


This is one of the oldest but still common forms of inheritance theft. Here, the trustee or beneficiary you name in your estate plan will divert some of the funds in your estate into personal accounts. Embezzlement commonly affects estate plans with minors as heirs. Thankfully, most local and state regulations now have alternatives for protecting the rights of children in estate plans to reduce the risk of embezzlement.

Undocumented Loans

undocumented loan

At times, potential heirs to an estate will borrow huge monetary amounts as loans from the testator or testatrix, and not pay  anything back. Once the creditor passes on, they will turn around and claim the loan was a gift and they are not obliged to repay it. Since most cash transfers between loved ones are undocumented, it is almost impossible to prove it was a loan and not a gift.

The above forms of inheritance theft are quite common but downplayed. To guarantee they do not affect your estate, a trained and certified lawyer is essential. This way, your estate plan is protected from various influences that might mar your wishes.

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