Preventing estate theft begins before a person dies. It’s good to check on an elderly or disabled loved one to make sure that no one is mishandling their estate and stealing their money by abusing a power of attorney, coercing them into signing documents they don’t understand such as transfer deeds or victimizing them in other ways.
Preventing Personal Representative Theft
After a loved dies, it’s good to monitor the activities of the personal representative of a Florida estate if you suspect that the personal representative is stealing estate assets. As a beneficiary of a Florida estate, you have the right to ask the personal representative to provide you with information about the estate, and with accountings if you are not satisfied with the information provided. If the personal representative does not provide information, the beneficiaries can apply to the Florida Dade probate court for to require the personal representative produce the accounting and receipts.
Remedies for Personal Representative Theft
The personal representative is legally liable to reimburse the estate and/or the beneficiaries for any financial losses resulting from the personal representative’s actions. The personal representative could be subject to fines and penalties and criminal actions for embezzlement or stealing estate assets, and the court may remove the personal representative and appoint a new one.
Obtaining a Court Ordered Injunction
If you think another family member or interested party such as a business partner of the decedent is stealing estate assets, another way to stop a person from stealing the estate assets is to ask the court for an injunction preventing the person from taking the assets. One can also file a police report and have the person arrested and charged with a criminal offense. This does not prevent the estate or the heirs of the decedent from filing a civil action against the person to recover the monetary losses to the estate or the beneficiaries.
Personal Representative Bond
Many personal representatives are bonded, which insures against losses incurred to the estate as result of the personal representative’s actions such as stealing money or other estate assets. The beneficiaries or heirs may be able to make a claim against the bond to recover their losses.
Seeking Legal Assistance
If you are a beneficiary or an heir to a Florida estate, and you believe that someone is stealing estate assets, speak with a Florida probate and estate attorney. The attorney can assist you with filing the necessary paperwork with the court and advising you about whether you should make a police report. A New York probate and estate attorney can also help you collect the money owed to you by the personal representative or person who took the estate asset.
If you wish to speak to a Florida estate attorney, call us, the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin today.