It would seem that any decent human being would never dream of committing fraud in a situation such as that of probate. Many of us would think the death of a close friend or relative would be a hard time for all those involved and people would be lending each other support, not scamming each other.
Unfortunately, some humans really would stoop that low and commit probate fraud, therefore it is always a good idea to keep your wits about you and trust your instincts if you have any suspicions. Even if these suspicions turn out to be wrong, at least you have the peace of mind that you are not being scammed in any way.
Appoint a probate solicitor, as they can assist you in detecting probate fraud or scams.
Prevalence of probate fraud
A few years ago it was predicted that probate fraud was not very common and only accounted for a cost of about £50m a year. This turned out to be a considerable underestimation, with it now being believed that the cost of probate fraud totals £150m a year, with half of the professionals that were questioned stating they had come across cases of fraud in the last year.
It is current law that only the appointed executor can have access to and see all the accounts of the estate. This can be a worry for the other beneficiaries and many cases of fraud are carried out by the executor.
Who can commit probate fraud?
Anyone who is connected to a Will can effectively commit probate fraud. This includes people such as:
It is usually a relative who is named as an executor in probate. An executor has access to all the deceased’s property and paperwork, including accounts, so they are in a prime position to commit fraud. If a Will does not satisfy an executor they may try to manipulate it in some way, although this is not always the case so only pursue an investigation if you are suspicious.
It may seem that carers would be the last people to commit probate fraud, but this is not the case. It has been found on many occasions that carers can scam the person that they are caring for out of life savings or other assets, and sometimes even persuade a person to change a Will.
A famous case even saw a group of carers pretend to be the person they were caring for, calling in a solicitor to re-write a Will leaving everything to the carers. Later it was found that fraud had been committed and all the carers were imprisoned.
Solicitors are by no means innocent in cases of probate fraud. Most of us do not understand the legislation surrounding probate and therefore place trust in a solicitor to act on our behalf. It has been found on many occasions that solicitors or someone granted ‘enduring power of attorney’ have committed probate fraud. One solicitor even managed to pay off all his credit card debts by concealing them in a Will. Luckily he was caught and punished for his actions.
Be cautious and be suspicious
It may seem wrong to be suspicious following the death of a friend or relative, but the above examples show that this is not the case. Many suspicions of fraud that are followed up often find what they were looking for; evidence of fraud. Always follow your instincts, even if they turn out to be false at least you will gain peace of mind.
You should also always use a competent solicitor with proven reliability in handling probate cases. Doing this will ensure you have all the knowledge you need when handling the estate of a deceased person, as well as give you assurance in using a trustworthy solicitor. A probate solicitor can also help to detect fraud.