There is probably nothing more frustrating than seeing a group of greedy people fighting over the crumbs that are left after someone passes away. It’s not only family members. The greed can extend to health care providers, insurance companies, the mortgage industry, the banking industry, religious institutions and “long lost relatives nobody knew ever existed”. Although most people do not enjoy thinking and planning for the end of life inevitability, the reason it is so important can easily be displayed in the following cases that have gone through our office at FAI International.
Our first case involves a late 80, early 90-year-old couple. The couple came together later in life after their children had grown up. In their initial, separate will’s they made their wishes clear as to what was to be done with their assets and belongings upon their death(s). However, as the couple got older, family members took advantage of the couple’s decrease in mental cognitive skills to trick them into leaving their assets and belongings to them instead.
The “doctored” wills were uncovered while the couple was still alive and living in mental health and assisted living facilities. The wishes of the couple were always made clear when they were still in the capacity to voice them. However, the wills that were uncovered went against everything that the couple ever discussed with another set of family members. With the appointment of another family member as trustee, who had absolutely no business serving as trustee, it was pretty clear who the guilty parties within the family were. Especially since every asset the couple had between them, whether it came with them before their marriage, or was acquired during their marriage was left to a certain set of family members, removing everyone else.
Because of the uncooperative nature of the guilty party in admitting their fraudulent activities, the other set of family members was forced to engage the legal system. With fees for attorney’s and experts to examine financial records what was left of the Estate of this couple after their deaths has been decimated to next to nothing. The couple owned some “high-end” real estate which is now facing a forced into a distress sale to cover the costs associated with investigating and prosecuting the fraud.
If only the fraudsters had left the initial wills in place instead of manipulating them, they would have been left with a sizeable inheritance including real estate that they could have used to better their own financial positions and quality of life. Instead, they chose to commit a fraud which fortunately, the other family members caught, and are now having to liquidate their inherited assets along with their own personal assets to cover court costs and fees.
Our next case is similar in nature in that the deceased passed with several real estate assets which family members began to fight over. However, in this case the deceased passed without a written will. Each family member began fighting over assets stating that the deceased had promised it to them. Because there were still mortgages on the real estate, the holder of the mortgages became involved.
Each family member had their own legal representative. Being a fairly small town, each attorney knew one another and most of the non-real estate assets were able to be divided amongst the heirs. The surviving family members believed that the “real money” was in the real estate and would not budge from their position on acquiring all of it.
As part of our investigation we viewed each property and placed a value on it. I will tell you it was not hard to find the properties in question. First, one of the attorney’s did a great job laying out a practical travel path from one property to the next. Second, the property in question was hands down the most run-down house in each neighborhood we visited. It was beyond comprehension why anyone would want one, or more of these dilapidated, neglected properties.
Fortunately, the Judge ruled that all of the properties must be sold, and the funds would go to the mortgage company that was holding the loans on the properties. Seems once the deceased had passed nobody paid the mortgages in the two plus years that the family spent fighting over assets. Turns out, there was no benefit or income available to the heirs in the form of real estate after all.
Our final case involves a long-lost relative that appeared out of nowhere when a family member of a client had passed away. The long-lost heir stated that he was an illegitimate son of the deceased and had not seen his “father” since he was a young boy. Thanks to the internet, he was able to locate his “father”, only to find out that he was deceased.
The family asked that we run a background check on the long-lost relative. It was pretty easy to determine that the information provided by this individual was fraudulent as it did not show a single positive result in our background check program. Just to conduct our own due diligence, we engaged a law enforcement contact to run one through their system. They were able to validate our findings that this person was not who they said they were.
Our law enforcement friends decided to get involved in the game and paid our fraudster a visit. They were able to uncover his real identity and arrest him for a string of crimes involving similar fraud activities. Sometimes, it pays who you know.
With the deceased gone and no written plan it is easy for fraudsters and greedy family members to take advantage of the actual wishes of the deceased. The easiest way to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are voiced is through a written will and the hiring of an independent executor. Otherwise, the additional costs of hiring attorneys and experts will likely drain the estate of any benefits the deceased may have wished left for surviving family members and friends.