estate about to be hijacked

When you have a large, complex estate, you may have many worries on your list – from having the right legal documents in place to who to appoint as an executor. But what about inheritance hijacking? 

This may not have crossed your mind.

Inheritance hijacking occurs when someone tries to steal your beneficiaries’ inheritance through deception or force. Quite simply, inheritance hijacking is theft.

Keep reading to learn more about common inheritance hijacking scenarios and how to protect yourself (and your beneficiaries) from future theft.

When does inheritance hijacking typically occur?

Here are some common scenarios when inheritance hijacking may occur:

  • When someone tries to emotionally manipulate a beneficiary during a vulnerable time
  • When someone forges legal documents showing that they’re entitled to part or all of the inheritance
  • When someone wants to marry an heir under false pretenses
  • When someone abuses a power of attorney
  • When someone unduly influences an elderly person to sign a will
  • When someone files a false claim in probate court

Inheritance hijacking doesn’t only occur with a stranger or a distant relative.  It can also happen among close family members, such as grown children or spouses.

How to protect your estate and your beneficiaries from inheritance hijacking?

Luckily, there are some steps you can take now to prevent inheritance hijacking after your death. Here are three proactive steps to keep in mind:

  1. Create a comprehensive estate plan

Ensure that your estate plan is thorough and up-to-date. It will make it more difficult for people to steal part of your estate if your documents are in order and properly secure your estate. For complex estates, this could mean having multiple legal documents – such as wills, powers of attorney, and trusts. Working with an experienced estate planning lawyer can help to protect your estate – now and in the future.

  1. Consider appointing more than one executor

As an added layer of protection, you may want to appoint more than one executor. This keeps your estate administration in the hands of more than one fiduciary – guarding against any fiduciary violations. 

  1. Discuss your estate plan with your family before you die

As opposed to keeping your estate plan a secret, discuss it with your family before you die.  This helps to set expectations for after your death as well as giving your family the tools of what may look “off” during your estate administration.

If your family faces this type of theft in the future, then they don’t need an estate planner but an estate litigator. Estate litigation, will contests, probate litigation, and other inheritance disputes require knowledgeable lawyers with specific skills to ensure your family receives the assets to which they’re entitled.
At Norris & Weber, our experienced Texas estate, probate, and trust litigators understand how critical it is to protect your assets, making sure they end up with the right beneficiaries. Our experienced and compassionate attorneys are dedicated to protecting your family’s future. If you are facing difficult matters related to will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, estate and probate litigation, or trust litigation, you can rely on our firm to defend your best interests. Our attorneys share over 85 years of experience and are ready to put their knowledge on your side.