Stolen inheritance

What you can do about a stolen inheritance?

Inheritance theft is rare, but it is occurring more frequently, and it is often an executor that is responsible for it.

The executor of a Will has control over the assets of the estate they are administering, so this can give them the opportunity to misappropriate or steal.

Of course, not all executor misconduct would amount to inheritance theft. If an executor delays in distributing inheritance monies, for instance, or fails to communicate with the beneficiaries, then this would not amount to a stolen inheritance. However, taking assets from the estate (such as transferring property or money into their personal name) could amount to misappropriation or theft.

If you suspect foul play, then the first step is to gather relevant evidence. This may include obtaining financial statements, bank records, property title deeds and correspondence with the executor relating to the inheritance.

If this suggests that something is amiss, you could raise the issue with the executor direct. This may enable you to resolve any misunderstandings without the need for legal action.

However, if you feel uncomfortable doing so, or if the executor refuses to engage with you or provide satisfactory answers to your questions, then it may be necessary to consult a solicitor to advise on pursuing legal action. If you or the estate has suffered financial loss due to the executor’s conduct, then a civil claim for breach of trust can be made against them for redress. In some circumstances an application to the court to remove the executor can also be made.

If the executor’s conduct amounts to fraud (such as documents being forged, money being paid to a non-beneficiary, or possessions being passed to a third party who is not entitled to them) then it could be treated as a criminal matter, and warrant a police investigation. If found guilty of theft then an executor can be sent to prison and there are many examples of this happening.

You should act quickly if you believe that an executor has stolen money from an estate so that immediate action can be taken to safeguard remaining estate assets, and recover assets that have been taken. We specialise in disputes with executors and operate a free legal helpline which you can call for guidance on your options in this situation.

Call us on 0333 888 0407, use this form to request a free consultation, or send an outline of your case to us at [email protected].

Stolen inheritance