What constitutes fraud in a probate situation?

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What constitutes fraud in a probate situation?

My stepfather died in 09/09. He and my mom were estranged. His family reported him as widowed on his death certificate. They cashed out a joint account that was in both their names (name a or name b). He and my mom were married when he died. Did they commit fraud with the death certificate and the obtaining of the money (over $50 K)?

Asked on September 14, 2010 under Estate Planning, Michigan

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am a bit confused by your question.  When you say that the joint account was in "both" their names whose do you mean?  Your Mother and stepfather?  Are they "a" or "b"?  If the account was in your Mother's name and they basically reported her dead, the bank should have asked for a death certificate.  That is a problem right there.  Now, if they were married and without any formal separation agreement or order of separation then the account was a marital asset in the first instance. Moreover, your Mom would have had a right to "elect against the estate" meaning that she would have had a right to inherit under his Will or his estate of he had died intestate.  I would seek legal help here from an attorney in your area.  You need to find out who was appointed as the personal representative and make a claim if things were not done properly.  Good luck.


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