Identifying Signs of Probate Fraud


By: HeirSearch.

Probate fraud occurs when anything immoderately affects the probate process. Probate fraud has many forms, such as:

  • Generating fake documentation or proof of inheritance to make an unfounded claim to an estate
  • Destroying or hiding a will
  • Forcing an estate into intestate succession by withholding documents
  • Influencing or pressuring the will-maker to alter the will
  • Hiding, stealing, or misusing estate assets
  • Trying to obtain estate assets without proper entitlement as an heir

When a purported beneficiary or inheritor in a position of power commits fraud against an estate for personal gain, the estate’s administrator may resort to consulting a professional research firm for legal assistance in identifying the heirs to an estate. Some of the red flags that indicate potential probate fraud include:

  • The sudden and unexpected appearance of a supposed heir
  • Excessive updates to a will shortly before passing (potentially signifying unduly pressure on the will-maker)
  • The drafting of a new will without an attorney or witnesses present
  • The unreasonable exclusion of immediate next of kin (e.g., spouse, children) from the will
  • “Gifting” of significant assets before the will-maker passes away. Or, large parts of the estate go “missing”
  • Trust assets begin to dwindle immediately after the decedent’s passing
  • The sudden destruction of essential estate documents shortly before or after the decedent’s passing

Beyond being wary of these red flags that signify potential probate fraud, in some cases, the deceased’s wishes are not explicitly expressed in the last will. In such cases, estate administration and probate should ensue in line with the state’s laws.

Probate Attorneys Trust HeirSearchTM To Help

Probate litigation can help resolve disputes over how an estate has been or should be administered. If you’re the administrator of an estate and suspect probate fraud, you should alert the probate court and be prepared to back up your allegations with evidence.

This evidence may come in the form of:

  • Testimony of expert witness provided by a forensic genealogist
  • Documents proving the improper transfer of money or assets
  • Proof of forged signatures
  • Accounts indicating mismanagement of trust funds
  • Other evidence that is indicative of wrongdoing

Research firms, like HeirSearchTM, are lawfully authorized authorities in resolving heirship disputes or uncertainties in cases of potential probate fraud.

How does a forensic genealogist help?

A forensic genealogist helps trace the missing heirs to an estate. They may also provide testimony regarding the validity of a claim raised by the supposed heir. When a person dies intestate, a forensic genealogist helps produce an accurate family tree of the deceased, tracing back multiple generations to identify all living and deceased relatives. With this information, an estate’s administrator can contact living heirs to provide notice and map out a suitable plan for distributing the estate in line with the state’s intestacy laws.

Do you need help in identifying probate fraud?

HeirSearch’s professional researchers help estate and trust professionals identify, locate, and notify the lawful heirs to an estate through qualified research.

HeirSearch™ works with executors, administrators, trustees, fiduciaries, bank and trust officers, and their counsel to establish kinship for legal purposes. Since 1967, we’ve successfully completed tens of thousands of worldwide searches.

If you need to establish heirship to satisfy the court, HeirSearch can help. We offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations, court-ready documents, and reasonable, non-percentage-based search fees.

Feel free to reach out with any questions — we look forward to connecting!

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As the industry’s leading forensic genealogy experts and heir finders, We Find Missing Heirs a Better Way®. We can help with even the most complex probate cases, spanning multiple genealogical connections and geographies.

This report is for informational purposes only and is intended only as a reference. HeirSearch does not endorse or recommend any of the products or services offered in the third-party articles or content contained within. We cannot guarantee the accuracy or effectiveness of the same and will not assume any liability related to the same. Additionally, nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice. All offers are void where prohibited by law. Copyright © International Genealogical Search Inc. All rights reserved.