How do You Report Probate Fraud in Texas?
After a person passes away, his or her will is probated. The court appoints an executor or administrator to handle all of the finances and distribution of assets of a person’s will. The executor is required to obey the law and follow the will when protecting and dispersing the estate. Unfortunately, fraud can occur before or during the probate process. Fraudulent activity in the probate of a will is a violation of the law.
Types of Probate Fraud
Fraud can occur at various stages of the probate process. A person’s will may be forged or might be obtained fraudulently. This means that the entire estate may not be properly dispersed according to the deceased’s actual requests. Some of the assets may be hidden from others by the executor or others. If this occurs, the rightful heirs will not receive their proper inheritance. The executor or administrator might take funds out of the account to make unauthorized payments that are not part of the estate.
These are just a few examples of how probate fraud can occur. When it does, the rightful heirs have a right to take action. There are two options that are generally available. Because fraud is a criminal act, the theft can be reported to authorities. The other option is to file a lawsuit against the person who improperly received money from the estate. An experienced probate fraud attorney can help you with the process.
File a Criminal Complaint
If you have reason to believe that someone stole money or property from an estate, you may choose to file a criminal complaint. Law enforcement will investigate the theft and will determine what happened. If they find evidence that a crime was committed, they may arrest the person responsible and file criminal charges.
While this option will cause a criminal prosecution, it may not be in your best interest to take this route. It may be more beneficial to file a lawsuit. Keep in mind that the person who stole the money or property is likely a relative and could then face criminal prosecution. It is also important to note that some law enforcement agencies may be reluctant to take on a case such as this because they often consider it a family matter.
File a Civil Lawsuit
A civil lawsuit allows you to seek justice from the responsible party. The matter will be resolved in court or through negotiations prior to trial. If a party is found responsible, they may be required to provide restitution to the estate. Essentially, they would have to repay the estate for the value of the money or other assets that were improperly acquired. It may be easier to resolve a civil lawsuit than to have criminal charges filed. It can also produce better results, as the party will likely be required to return the value of the stolen property.
The sooner you discover probate fraud and report it, the better. The thief will have less time to spend the money and there is a better chance that the property or value will be returned. The situation can be complex and requires research and investigation. An experienced Texas probate fraud attorney will assist you in resolving the matter quickly and effectively. Contact Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. to discuss the matter today. Free consultation 713-221-6800.