In the second part of our two-part series on recognizing fraudulent Wills, we will continue to explore various characteristics of a Last Will and Testament that might indicate it is fraudulent. While some of the factors in the first part of this series might be a little more obvious, the information below may help you understand some less common but still observable aspects of a Will that could indicate it has been tampered with.
Wills Disproportionately Benefitting Religious Organizations or Charities
Especially in cases where a deceased person was not active in a religious organization or was only minimally active, this type of provision in a Will could indicate that something is amiss. Sadly, many elderly people can be easily influenced by unscrupulous individuals that want to use assets for their own benefit or to benefit something they find to be particularly important. Sometimes this comes at the hand of the religious organization itself, and sometimes it comes as a result of the influence of an individual with close ties to the religious organization in question. This is also true for large distributions to charities a deceased person would not normally have given money to or did not have a record of supporting during his or her lifetime.
Wills Benefitting Healthcare Workers or Other Non-Relatives
Many elderly individuals may require long-term health care, either in-home or in a clinical setting like a nursing home or senior care center. As we continue to live longer, the period during which this care may need to be provided also increases. Many times, individuals may feel a special affinity with their regular healthcare workers and could choose to leave them some assets as a token of appreciation. While this may be perfectly normal, leaving a disproportionate amount to someone that was in a position to exercise influence over a person’s decision-making ability could indicate that such workers have taken advantage of the deceased. This does not mean every gift to a care provider should be suspicious, but gifts to care providers only in the deceased’s life for a short period of time or abnormally large bequests to such individuals are often suspect.
This is also true for large bequests to other non-relatives. It is increasingly common for individuals to want to spread their assets among more people than just their family members for a variety of reasons. However, such individuals still typically choose to leave a larger percentage of their assets to family members. If a disproportionate amount is left to other people, like friends or professionals providing regular service of some sort to an individual, then there may be some cause for concern.
Wills Executed or Amended During Illness
It is never too early to engage in responsible comprehensive estate planning. However, many individuals do not do so until they become ill or are close to dying. Wills executed on a person’s deathbed or those executed during a period of illness prior to death – including Wills amended during similar periods – should be subject to closer review because it is possible that an individual was not of sound mind and body when performing these actions. If you believe there is any reason to suspect that an individual did not have the capacity to create or amend a Will, it is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to address your concerns as soon as possible.