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The truth about estate theft is that it happens much more often than you think. A full spectrum of people steal from deceased people’s estates. Among them are trusted members of the community; former caregivers, relatives, estate administrators and funeral home employees are caught in this type of crime.

Also, it is not only multi-million dollar estates that are targeted for theft, a wide variety of estates become targets for crime. Here are some examples of the ways estates get cheated out of assets and property.

Personal Property Theft

The time between an individual’s passing and the formal estate settlement process is a very vulnerable time both for the survivors of the deceased and the decedent’s possessions. More people are in and out of the home than normal, and not all of them are known to the immediate family of the deceased. Besides, family members are not as aware of what happens in their surroundings because of their grief.

There are many ways that personal property of the deceased can get stolen. Funeral home personnel and caregivers alike have been caught taking jewelry and credit cards right from the person’s body after the time of death.

Family Rivalries

After a family member that does not have access to the deceased’s home comes for a visit to comfort the survivors, some antiques and other family heirlooms seem to be missing. Is it overreacting to think that the visiting relative took the family valuables? Not necessarily. Disagreements regarding inheritance can come to a breaking point after a death, which leads to relatives “taking what is rightfully mine.”

Asset Theft

The theft of bank account information by persons with access to the decedent’s home is also quite common. Friends, family, or estate administrators can gain access to information to drain accounts and apply for credit cards in the decedent’s name.

Real Estate Theft

A friend or family member not otherwise in the will may make a move for your loved one’s real estate holdings long before the individual’s death. Many vulnerable persons get persuaded to change their bequest plans in favor of someone who has ingratiated themselves for just that purpose.

As a loyal family member or friend of the deceased, the best thing you can do is stay watchful for any suspicious activity. If you feel that a crime was committed, do not hesitate to report it to law enforcement.