After a loved one becomes ill or passes away it has become increasingly common for him or her to draw the attention of those who specialize in probate fraud. Multiple studies have shown that probate fraud is on the rise, causing the most vulnerable among us to lose millions in various schemes. Princess Abagail Kawananakoa, a descendant of Hawaii’s last reigning Queen, found herself in the middle of a series of bitter legal battles after her former domestic partner petitioned to end the Princess’s control over her trust. The dispute led to accusations of abuse and other activities that are considered to be common types of probate fraud.

Undue Influence and Isolation

Once a person has become seriously ill or otherwise dependent upon another party, it is possible that his or her caretaker can begin to have undue influence. This influence may lead to a person encouraging the individual in his or her care to make financial decisions that unfairly benefit the caretaker. This influence is increased when an individual is isolated and can lead to sudden or unusual changes to a will, refusal to obtain legal advice, addendums made under duress, or will forgery.

Suspicious Post Death Contact

Probate fraud can also be initiated immediately after a loved one has passed in the form of suspicious communication that occurs immediately after the death. This type of contact includes emails, official-looking letters, or telephone calls. Often a beneficiary or estate administrator is told that the deceased owes money for back taxes, a probate-related fee, or that the deceased left a large sum of money that will only be released if the beneficiary or executor makes a payment.  If a person is being intimidated into making a payment, contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can help you determine if the company contacting you is legitimate and obeying the law.

Unauthorized Transactions

Immediately after a loved one has died, it is common for the family to gather all of the personal information and documents related to their finances such as debit cards and credit cards. These items should be held for the executor who is ultimately responsible for closing accounts, notifying creditors, and distributing funds. However, a person may start using the deceased accounts to withdraw cash or transfer funds from one bank account to another. Some people have even fabricated loan information in order to get the estate to pay a debt that never existed.

Fighting Fraud

A person or company taking advantage of your family during the probate process can cost your family money and destroy your peace of mind when you need it the most. If you believe that you or a loved one is being targeted for a probate scam, contact a probate attorney immediately. An attorney who has experience handling estates is able to provide you with the legal advice and guidance you need to determine what should be done to protect yourself and the legacy of your loved one. If you need assistance with a probate, trust, or estate related issue, contact MMZ Law today, (909) 256-6702. We are able to provide you with a discrete consultation at our Claremont, California office to help you decide how to handle your unique situation.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.