Savvy Tips Guru

Preventing Inheritance Theft: Spotting Warning Signs

inheritance theft

Getting an inheritance, like money or property, is a big deal for many people. It can mean you get to pay off debts, invest for the future, or just have some extra security. But there’s a catch—sometimes others might try to take what’s supposed to be yours. This is called inheritance theft or hijacking.

Inheritance theft happens when someone illegally takes or tries to control assets that should go to the rightful heirs after someone passes away. It could be anyone looking to benefit themselves—from relatives you barely know to people who were close to the person who left the inheritance. They might try tricks like faking documents or pressuring someone to change their will, all to get their hands on assets they’re not supposed to have.

This kind of theft is more than just about money; it goes against the last wishes of the person who wants to leave something behind for their loved ones. If you’re expecting an inheritance, it’s important to know how to spot signs of theft and understand how to protect yourself and your future.

The Reality of Inheritance Theft

It might be surprising, but the risk of financial abuse due to inheritance theft is a big problem, affecting many families. According to a news report from The National Will Register, due to increasing economic factors, social isolation, and advances in technology, many people each year find out they’re victims of this kind of theft. This shows us that anyone could be at risk of inheritance theft, especially those who aren’t expecting it.

People who are older, have a lot of money or property or don’t know much about how inheritance works are more likely to have someone try to steal their inheritance. It’s often easier for thieves to target someone who might not see it coming.

But here’s the good news: if you know what to watch out for, you can protect your inheritance. Being aware and taking some steps ahead of time can make a big difference in making sure your inheritance goes where it’s supposed to go. Recognizing the signs that something might be wrong is key to keeping your future financial security safe and making sure the wishes of the person who left you the inheritance are respected.

What counts as inheritance theft?

Inheritance theft includes several dishonest actions where someone takes or tries to take what doesn’t belong to them from an inheritance. Here’s a look at the different ways this can happen:

  1. Changing Wills or Trusts Without Permission: If someone secretly changes a will or trust papers to benefit themselves, that’s a clear case of theft. This could involve faking signatures or tricking someone into signing something they don’t understand.
  2. Taking Things Before They’re Yours: Directly taking money, property, or anything else meant for heirs before it’s officially theirs is stealing.
  3. Abusing Power of Attorney: When someone is trusted to make decisions for another person (like when they’re very sick) and uses this power for their own gain instead of helping, it’s theft.
  4. Ignoring What the Will Says: Executors and trustees have a job to do—follow the will’s instructions. If they decide to do something else with the assets, like keeping them for themselves or giving them away wrongly, that’s not right.
  5. Keeping Secrets About the Will: Hiding a will, not telling heirs about their inheritance, or keeping important information secret so others can benefit is also stealing.
  6. Pressuring Someone to Change Their Will: Sometimes, people might pressure or bully someone into changing their will so they can get a part of the inheritance. This, too, counts as theft.

Understanding these types of theft equips you to better recognize anomalies in inheritance matters. Should you observe any of these actions, it could indicate a need for closer scrutiny and, potentially, intervention.

What are the laws that protect you from inheritance theft?

Fortunately, there are several laws out there that help protect you and your inheritance from theft. These laws make sure that the last wishes of the person who passed away are respected and that the right people get what they were meant to. 

  • Estate and Probate Laws: Every state has rules about how to handle someone’s things after they die, including how to manage and give out their assets. These rules help ensure that heirs get their rightful share. If someone tries to take your inheritance unfairly, these laws allow you to fight back and claim your inheritance.
  • Criminal Laws: Taking someone’s inheritance through dishonest means, like faking a signature or stealing assets, is not just wrong—it’s against the law. People caught doing this can face serious consequences, including fines or jail time.
  • Trust and Fiduciary Duty Laws: Individuals in charge of managing an estate, like executors or trustees, must follow the will or trust’s instructions faithfully. There are strict requirements for them to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. If they fail to do so, they can be held accountable and might have to pay back any losses they cause.
  • Guardianship Laws: These laws protect people who may not be able to look after their own interests, ensuring they’re not taken advantage of. This includes safeguarding their right to inherit. Guardians appointed to look after these individuals have to act in their best interests.

How to Recover Your Stolen Inheritance and Keep It Safe

Discovering that your inheritance might be stolen or under threat can be worrying. Fortunately, there are things you can do to fight back and protect what’s rightfully yours. 

  1. Talk to a Lawyer Who Knows About Wills and Estates: If you think something’s wrong with your inheritance, the first step is to get in touch with an estate planning attorney, also known as probate lawyers, who specializes in estates or wills. They know all about these kinds of situations and can tell you what steps to take.
  2. Keep Records of Everything: Make sure you save all emails, letters, and documents that have to do with the inheritance. If anything looks shady or if there are changes made that don’t seem right, having this information can help your case.
  3. Challenge the Situation in Court: If it looks like your inheritance is being wrongly taken from you, your lawyer might suggest taking the issue to court. Courts that deal with wills and estates can look into the problem and help sort it out.
  4. Tell the Police About Any Illegal Stuff: If the problem involves illegal actions like someone faking a signature or stealing money, you should report this to the police. This can be done at the same time as your court case.
  5. Make Plans to Protect Your Inheritance in the Future: To avoid problems later on, talk about estate planning with your family. Making sure everything’s written down clearly and choosing reliable people to handle the will or estate can prevent misunderstandings or theft.

Safeguarding Your Inheritance Rights

To wrap up, it’s important to remember that your right to an inheritance is about more than just getting some money or property. It’s about keeping a connection with someone who wanted to leave you a part of what they had. For us, making sure you get your inheritance is just as important as it was for the person who left it to you. Protecting this right means making sure their last wishes are carried out and that they get what they should.

Theft of an inheritance isn’t only about losing out on something valuable; it’s also about disrespecting the wishes and memory of your loved ones. Being smart, staying alert, and ready to act can help make sure their wishes are followed. Whether it’s getting advice from experts, knowing your legal rights, or talking openly about planning for the future, taking steps now can help keep your inheritance safe later on.

It’s up to all of us to make sure the wishes of those who’ve passed away are honored and that the rights of those left behind are looked after.


  • RJ Sinclair

    RJ is our resident money guru, with a knack for keeping finances neat and organized. With previous experience as a budget manager in supply chain companies, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. Count on RJ as a trustworthy source for valuable money tips and advice to help you make the most of your financial journey.