Probate Theft and How You Can Avoid It

probate theft

What Is Probate Theft?

Probate theft, also called inheritance or estate theft, refers to the theft of property or assets belonging to an estate during the probate process. Probate is the legal process by which an estate of a deceased person is administered. Part of this process is the distribution of property and assets. When probate theft occurs, assets are concealed or stolen, and the true beneficiaries do not get their honest inheritance. 

Examples of Probate Theft

This type of theft can take several forms, including forging wills and stealing assets. Furthermore, it can be as intricate as an elder abuser exerting undue influence over the deceased person to change the will to benefit the abuser. There are some signs to look out for that point to theft:

  • Estate documents being changed multiple times shortly before passing
  • Sizeable and irregular cash withdrawals from the decadent’s bank accounts
  • Extraordinary real estate transactions on properties that the decedent owns 


Probate theft steals from the estate’s beneficiaries and prevents them from receiving the property and assets left to them. Beneficiaries must attempt to recover their stolen assets or prove that estate planning documents were forged or altered. Therefore, this theft may result in lengthy legal battles, depending on what type of probate theft took place. Perpetrators will face criminal charges and civil lawsuits. Overall, this theft carries significant consequences for all parties involved


There are steps you can take to prevent probate theft. The first step is to discuss your wishes with your loved ones. This theft is less likely when the grantor is open and clear about their wishes with those they trust. Equally important, regularly review and update your will and documents with your estate planning attorney. Lastly, keep assets safe and secure. Consider gifting special assets to those you wish to receive before passing. 

If you would like to avoid probate theft, contact Law & Stein. We specialize in estate and probate law and can best advise you on steps to protect your estate and preserve your wealth.