Undue influence, as well as a variety of other unlawful activities often commence prior to an individual’s passing. As such, the attorneys at our firm, in addition to assessing the validity of a Will, typically review lifetime transfers in order to determine whether additional claims may be brought. Significant transfers of property or monies within three years of an individual’s passing are generally suspect and should be reviewed.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in unlawful transfers of a decedent’s funds prior to their passing. The most common method by which these funds are unlawfully procured is through the use of a power of attorney or the establishment of a joint account. Jointly titled accounts pass outside of the Will and in accordance with the terms of the joint account. Normally, these accounts are payable to the surviving accountholder and as such, may result in substantially all of the decedent’s assets passing to the joint accountholder as opposed to those individuals named in the decedent’s Will. Because many elderly individuals need assistance in paying their bills and managing their finances, they often, unknowingly, establish joint accounts which are contrary to their testamentary intent.
Another method by which an individual’s assets are unlawfully depleted prior to their passing can result from the improper use of a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a document by which another individual can act on your behalf, typically, with respect to financial matters. These documents, like Wills, can be procured by way of undue influence and are often signed in conjunction with an unlawfully procured Will. With a power of attorney in hand, an individual can quickly deplete an elderly person’s estate by writing checks to themselves, paying their bills with the elderly person’s assets, transferring property to themselves and by designating themselves as beneficiaries to various accounts and life insurance policies.
Where an elderly person’s assets are converted through the use of a power of attorney, additional claims can be brought such as breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and conversion. Our attorneys are experienced in pursuing these claims and will vigorously represent you in these matters. For more information concerning these or other issues, please feel free to arrange for an appointment with an attorney at our firm.