Estate Planning Fraud: What It Is And How To Avoid It

estate planning fraud

What is Estate Planning Fraud?

An estate plan is a legal document stating your objective about your assets upon death. This is the sole responsibility of each individual, and any fraudulently executed estate plan will be invalid. In 2020, 13,600 people were victims of real estate scams; therefore, proper management of estate plans is crucial.

How Can Estate Planning Documents Become Fraudulent?

Fraud is an ongoing battle in many industries. Property is an essential societal asset in terms of wealth and redistribution. It is vital to be aware of a property’s history or the legal documents containing crucial ownership information. This usually demonstrates a timeline of previous transfers in ownership. Property history is instrumental in preventing irregularities or inheritance and property share disputes.

estate planning scams

For example, a person cannot dispose of or sell a property that does not belong to them, so it’s essential to know the owner’s true identity. Documents can become fraudulent where, for example, people forge signatures, there is undue influence from another person, or if the deceased or testator creating the plan lacks capacity due to mental or physical incapacity.

If any beneficiary or interested party contests a will and changes its substance, it becomes a fraudulent document. The same is said if there is misinformation or errors in representation. Where there’s a fraud, documents can be voided – having no legal basis that gives rise to any rights.

Documents follow a specific procedure to be deemed valid. Suppose, at any stage, the records become intercepted or prevented from reaching a stage and altered. In that case, the paper is no longer an accurate representation of the deceased or testator’s wishes.

Identifying Estate Planning Fraud

Recognizing fraud can be challenging. Often, the property of an estate being put up for sale seems legit and may have good online reviews. In some instances, executors or administrators of estates ignore directions and misappropriate assets. Fraud exists when its elements are present. So, how can we identify these elements?


This is the first step to proving fraud. Fraud is often reflected as a misrepresentation, as people are usually tricked into believing something contrary to the actual state of affairs. A false representation can occur as a fake claim, such as lying that a beneficiary has been disinherited. In proving misrepresentation, the aggrieved party must confirm that the person doing the misrepresentation knew that this was false.

Sometimes, it would be substantial enough to prove that they should have known that a particular statement was false. For example, suppose Susan lies to your mother, stating that your mother will be signing the updated version of her estate when it’s, in fact, the older version. In that case, this is a misrepresentation in terms of the signed documentation.

Fraudulent Intent

In most areas of law, we have to prove intention. It’s not enough to say, Susan lied to your mother, and therefore the estate plan should be invalid. You have to show that Susan intended for your mother to alter the plan based on this misrepresented statement.
The intention is present if a person’s conduct desires a particular outcome and that person acts accordingly.


Coupled together with misrepresentation and intention is injury. To be successful in your claim, you would have to show that an injury occurred due to the intended misrepresentation. This is a particular injury in patrimony. Meaning, because there was an intentional misrepresentation, a potential beneficiary incurred a financial loss. For example, if the intended lie Susan told your mother allows Susan to inherit under the old estate plan and receive far less, you sustain a financial injury.

Preventing Estate Planning Fraud

However unpredictable and sporadic fraud may be, there are mechanisms to combat it.

  1. Investigate who you plan to handle your estate. You need to be confident in the estate attorney or company you are working with. Word-of-mouth or mere internet reviews won’t suffice.
  2. Keep your personal information to yourself. This is until you’re sure that you can trust an attorney or company with it.
  3. Be cautious of agreements that may appear “too good to be true.” Ensure that any company you wish to engage with is trustworthy and reputable.
  4. Ask about qualifications. You must be working with a professional; otherwise, your will can be deemed invalid. An estate planning attorney will adequately explain each step clearly and concisely. In saying such, avoid signing any documentation that you don’t understand.
  5. Purchase additional products carefully. If any fees are exorbitant, it might be a good indicator that further research is required. It is uncommon to pay upfront for certain costs – such as to an estate administrator. They are usually paid at the distribution of the estate.
  6. It is always best to obtain a second opinion from a legal professional if uncertainty lingers.
  7. Incapacitation hinders a person from acting in terms of the law. Any person performing a contractual duty must understand the rights, obligations, and responsibilities created by a will and the ensuing consequences.
  8. Reports of any suspicious activity must be directed to local officials who will handle the matter further.


Ask For Second Opinions

We are living in unpredictable times with evolving crimes. You must have your wits about you and be aware of each step in drafting your will. A second opinion should follow any suspicious circumstances or questionable advice obtained.

Estate planning is a mechanism for maintaining property and assets through fiduciary lineage. With due caution, you can avoid many estate scams and fraud so that you obtain what you are entitled to.

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selma hrynchuk
Selma HrynchukSelma is a fraud prevention specialist renowned for her expertise in private eye investigations and a remarkable partnership with law enforcement agencies. Beyond her investigative triumphs, her public speaking engagements and written works have empowered countless individuals to protect themselves and stay ahead of deceptive schemes. Selma's legacy shines as a tenacious agent of change, unyielding in her commitment to battling fraud and ensuring a safer world for all.

2 thoughts on “Estate Planning Fraud: What It Is And How To Avoid It”

  1. Here in Imperial Beach 91932 the real estate market is hot and we have seen quite a few scams. Be vigilant when asked for your information and double check emails for validity.

  2. your site would be more believable and you’d get more conversions if you put all your ads AT THE BOTTOM of the great information you provide that worried people are looking for. If you look legitimate throughout your MAIN SEARCH TERM article, as on this page, it was “ESTATE PLAN FRAUD”, which actually there are complex but easily processed frauds that can lose the victim in the $100’s of THOUSANDS of dollars. I know, because I uncovered one, and found that it had been so well run, with “reputable” Trust companies, that someone with a knowledge of Trusts and Real Estate, made A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE CHAIN SOME BIG $$$$. It’s insidious, but easy to do because 99% of beneficiaries and EVEN LISTED EXECUTORS AND TRUSTEES OF AN ESTABLISHED ESTATE PLAN BY AN ATTORNEY, can be instantly removed with UNDUE INFLUENCE, and an executor who has no idea of the Probate laws and has several “stepsisters” literally bullying them illegally even though they are children of the remaining Settlor. The PURE EVIL that had been cultivated for decades of hatred for children’s hatred of their father for leaving their family for a younger woman, with her own children, WILL FOR SOME UNEXPLAINABLE REASON TURN THOSE YEARS OF HATRED INTO TAKING CHANCES OF JAIL TIME TO DEFRAUD THE ESTATE IF THE STEPMOM DIES FIRST, leaving their 90 year old dying father as the sole beneficiary because as a Settlor of the Estate Plan, he also has to pass BEFORE the beneficiaries get their inheritance. All it takes is the three stepsisters to GUILT their 90 year old dad who purposely left them out of the Estate Plan because they already inherited their mother’s estate when she died years earlier, leaving her daughters millions. Now those “stepsisters” have money, and KNOWLEDGE of the probate system, and strangely, the ATTY FIRM that created the ESTATE PLAN for the two parents, both with children from a previous marriage, is NOW SUPPORTING THE NEW Executors and TRUSTEES who have full access to the Trust, which included real property and “multiple bank accounts.” They prey on the children of their Stepmother, they found the Estate Plan documents first, one of them flying in from Florida to the west coast where the parents lived, beating the 25 hour drive from out of state child listed as the executor. Then they bullied that listed executor in the Estate Plan, which, here’s the clincher, GIVEN TO THE LISTED EXECUTORS AND PERSONS THAT SAME ATTY CREATED YEARS BEFORE, so the daughter of the first Settlor who died, HAD NO LEGAL REPRESENTATION. The stepsisters approached their dad LITERALLY WITHIN DAYS after his beloved wife had passed, guilted him, fed him lies about their stepmom’s children’s “ability” to handle the estate and his care, and that HE OWED THEM FOR LEAVING THEM 40 YEARS AGO. That situation worked well for the stepsisters, who became GDPOAs, then Executors, then TRUSTEES, but WITHOUT ANY LEGAL DOCUMENTS FILED WITH THE PROBATE COURT.
    To be told later, the moves they made, with help of the atty of my parent’s Estate Plan (cash under the table), then the Estate Plan that atty created for my parents was thrown out the window, the surviving Settlor, the stepdad, gets his cellphone taken away, forced to use an online “sick old person” website to be his source of contacting people, except… THAT ACCOUNT AT THE WEbSITE WAS SETUP BY ONE OF THE STEPSISTERS. As the admin of the website account, she could ultimately designate who her father could contact, or who could reach him. UNDUE INFLUENCE. But what if the children named in the ESTATE PLAN didn’t have a $5000 retainer to hire a probate attorney? Too bad. If people in America think the RICH don’t get away with corruption, that opinion will quickly become true when they get into a situation about an INHERItANce, especially when $800,000 real estate is involved. for more on this story, let’s see what the owneres of this website say.

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