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trust or estate misappropriation frequently asked questions

Such claims tend to be most in situations where there is only one executor or trustee and they are dealing with the assets without any assistance from a professional e.g. a solicitor. There is no one to oversee their actions and prevent any fraudulent behaviour. Beneficiaries of an estate or trust may never discover what has happened or if they do it can be a long time after the event so cannot hold them to account.
Other people, such as other family members (whether a beneficiary of the estate or not), are often guilty of misappropriation of estate property. This tends to occur when one family member has keys to the deceased’s property and they have removed items of jewellery, cash or other valuable possessions before they have formally been accounted for and safeguarded. It will be difficult to prove that someone has taken those items if there is no record of them. Another common scenario is someone making withdraws from the bank account after the person’s death. That person may have been helping the deceased with their finances during their lifetime and still has the bank card and pin number or access to online banking.
This often occurs when the person who has taken assets does so on the mistaken belief that they were promised them by the deceased before their death. Or on the basis that it has been agreed with other family members previously that they should have that particular item even if it was left to someone else in the will. Alternatively, a person may feel that they deserve those assets for the help and assistance that they gave during the deceased’s lifetime.
Anyone who has misappropriated assets would be personally liable to pay them back or the equivalent value. If they are a beneficiary under the estate/trust then their share can be reduced to take into account the value of the assets that they have already had. If their share is not large enough to cover these losses in full, or they are not entitled to anything from the trust, then they would be ordered to pay back the monies from their personal assets such as savings accounts or property.
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