I Feel Cheated Out of My Inheritance, What Can I Do?
If a family member or friend recently died and you were expecting to receive an inheritance from that person’s estate, you could be in for a rude awakening when you find that the will has apparently been changed to lessen or erase your inheritance, or that some other action has occurred which lessens the inheritance you thought was yours, such as the property going missing. If you feel cheated out of your inheritance, there are steps you can take to address the issue. Here are a few questions to ask as you begin the process of seeking your rightful inheritance.
Was the Proper Will Admitted into Probate?
It is not at all uncommon for a person to create multiple wills throughout their lifetime and/or to update a will through a codicil. Sometimes a will is properly revoked with a later will or codicil, but then that later will might itself be revoked with the earlier will being “revived” and once again made controlling. This can get confusing where the deceased person did not do the best job of leaving instructions and storing the correct will, and nefarious parties may even try to submit the wrong will (or even a forged will) into probate court. If this occurred, you should work with a probate attorney to make sure the proper will and any accurate codicils are brought to the probate court’s attention.
Was the Will Changed Based on Undue Influence?
Even where the most recently updated will and codicils have been brought into court, in many cases a person may have been illegally led to change his will due to the undue influence of another person. Undue influence occurs where a person improperly influences another person to change his will in a way that conflicts with what that person would have wanted had he been in a proper mental or physical condition.
A classic example of this is a stranger, such as a caregiver or younger romantic interest, who comes into a person’s life near death when that person’s faculties have deteriorated and persuades him to write his children out of his will in favor of the stranger. If the proper beneficiaries of the will can persuade the court that the will was changed due to undue influence, the court can nullify the changes and provide the inheritance to the proper beneficiary. Examples of undue influence include:
- Drugging or over-medicating a person before getting the person to change the will
- Taking advantage of a person with limited mental or physical skills (e.g. poor eyesight) who does not understand what he is doing in changing the will
- Pressuring the person to change the will through coercion
Has a Trustee or Other Party Improperly Taken the Property?
In some cases, a beneficiary may be listed in the will submitted to probate, but the property itself may be missing. For example, if your grandmother promised you a jewelry collection, but it is now missing, there is the question of where it went. If the grandmother simply sold it prior to death, you may be limited in what you can recover (although in some cases you may still be able to inherit if the property was exchanged for similar property), but if a trustee or other party actually took the property improperly, you may be able to challenge this in probate court to recover what was rightfully yours.
Work With an Inheritance Recovery Attorney to Win Your Rightful Inheritance
In all cases, you should work with a probate attorney to determine your rights. If you believe you have been wrongfully disinherited or otherwise mistreated by another with regard to a will, The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys are here to help. We have extensive experience in understanding and litigating the nuances and complexities of California probate code, and we have spent countless hours spent in the courtroom aggressively fighting on behalf of injured plaintiffs. Contact one of the dedicated team members at The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys to see how we can help you in getting the recovery you deserve in your probate or trust matter.