If you believe your inheritance has been stolen, the first step is to contact an experienced probate litigation attorney. They can help you understand your legal options and what type of proof you will need to recover your stolen inheritance successfully.
The steps you will need to take to address the theft depend on how your inheritance was stolen. For instance, someone may have illegally manipulated your loved one to change their will before they died or forged a will leaving your inheritance to them. Inheritance theft can also occur after death if someone takes a physical item that is left to you in the will or if the executor misappropriates the deceased person’s assets.
Whatever your situation, it is crucial to work with a probate litigation lawyer throughout the process. An attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your particular circumstances and guide you every step of the way.
What Do I Do If I Was Cheated Out of My Inheritance?
If you have been cheated out of your inheritance, the first thing you should do is consult with an experienced attorney. Inheritance disputes can be complex, and it is vital to have legal representation to protect your rights.
That being said, there are some additional steps that you can take to increase the chances of recovering your stolen inheritance. First, keeping records of any communication with the person who took your inheritance is essential. It is also advisable to converse via email whenever possible to maintain a written record of conversations.
Additionally, you should keep information about dates and times and any suspicious or unusual behavior around the timeline of the theft. Even if you are unsure about who stole the item, providing any relevant information can be helpful.
Finally, it is worth asking for your inheritance back directly from the individual who took it. In some cases, the person may be willing to return the property if they are confronted with evidence that it rightfully belongs to you. But if they are unwilling to return your inheritance, you may need to take the issue to court.
How Do You Fight for Your Inheritance?
The first step in fighting for your inheritance is to understand how your inheritance was stolen.
If the issue is with the will, you can file a will contest in probate court, which is a legal challenge to the validity of a will. However, in order to contest a will, you must have specific legal grounds to do so.
Some of the most common reasons for contesting a will include:
- Undue Influence — Undue influence occurs when someone uses their position of power to convince the testator to change their will when they otherwise would not have done so.
- Duress — Duress occurs when someone threatens to inflict physical injury or other types of harm in order to coerce the testator into changing their will
- Fraud — Fraud can occur if the testator is fooled into believing something that isn’t true, causing them to change their will, or if someone tricks the testator into signing an updated will by claiming it is another document.
- Forgery — Forgery occurs when someone falsifies the will and/or the testator and witness signatures.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity — Lack of testamentary capacity means that the testator wasn’t mentally competent enough to understand the nature of their property and/or that they were making a will when they created the will.
- Failure to Follow Legal Formalities — A will may be invalidated if it does not comply with certain formalities, such as being properly witnessed.
Each situation is unique, so it is important to speak with an experienced probate litigation lawyer about your case. Your attorney will review the circumstances of your case and advise you on the best course of action.
Can I Sue My Brother or Sister for Stealing My Inheritance?
Yes, you can sue a sibling who steals your inheritance. However, in our experience, you can often recover your stolen inheritance without resorting to a lawsuit with the help of an experienced probate litigation attorney.
In many cases, a sibling who steals their sibling’s inheritance chooses to voluntarily return it after receiving a demand letter from a lawyer. The California Probate Code allows for victims of inheritance theft to pursue double damages, treble damages, punitive damages, disinheritance of the thief, attorney’s fees, and costs in particularly egregious circumstances, so often a letter that explains the potential consequences will be sufficient to convince your sibling to return your inheritance.
How Do I Find Out if I Got an Inheritance?
According to California Probate Code §8110, when someone files a petition to probate a will, they must provide notice at least 15 days before the date that the hearing is scheduled to the following people:
- All of the deceased’s legal heirs.
- All of the people who are named as beneficiaries in the will.
- All of the people appointed as executors or alternative executors in the will.
This notice will provide instructions for how you can become involved in the proceedings, and the executor should contact you if you are named in the will to provide you with your inheritance. You can also request a copy of the will to determine what you will inherit once the estate is administered.
If you believe that you are entitled to an inheritance but have not received notice or any other communications from the estate’s personal representative, you should discuss your circumstances with a probate litigation attorney as soon as possible. You may need to take legal action to secure your inheritance.
Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.
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The Guide to Family Trust Embezzlement and Stealing
The Definitive Guide to Partition Actions
The Penalty for Stealing from an Estate
The Disinherited Child’s Guide to Getting an Inheritance
About RMO Lawyers, LLP
RMO LLP serves clients in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, San Diego, Kansas City, Miami, and communities throughout California, Florida, Missouri, Houston, and Kansas. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates. For a free consultation, call (424) 320-9444 or visit: https://rmolawyers.com