Ask a Question” mailbag: Isn’t it true that theft from estate disqualifies beneficiary from inheriting from that estate? “As the executor of my mother’s estate I was able to prove that my brother stole from my mom. The judge ordered him to return the money. My mother’s Will divides the assets between all the children equally. Is my brother disqualified from inheriting his share?”
People who murder a parent are disqualified from inheriting from that parent. But, believe it or not, no law disqualifies a child from inheriting from a parent because the child stole money from the deceased parent.
Ask the judge to make the thief shoulder the cost of recovering the stolen funds.
Petitions to the judge asking for a child to return stolen property are quite common. Sometimes the petition asks the judge to return stolen jewelry. I have had cases where a child (or child’s spouse) has taken jewelry right from the parent’s body at the funeral home. Other times the petition addresses far more extensive bad acts, such as forging deeds or wrongfully shifting large sums of money from the parent’s account into the child’s account.
The courts overseeing these petitions have the power to order the child to return a wrongfully taken asset. The court doesn’t have the power to change the deceased’s will to remove the person as an heir. BUT, judges have the power to order the child who stole assets to pay the recovery costs. It’s the judge’s discretion. If the judge believes a child’s wrongful act was the sole cause of an expense, then instead of all the heirs sharing in the cost of recovery the judge may order the child’s share reduced to cover the expense. This decision is up to the judge, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!
If you have further questions about possible actions to take when a child steals from a probate estate, or if theft from estate disqualifies beneficiary, or any other questions about Estate Litigation, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
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Peter Klenk, Esq.