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How to Prove Inheritance Theft in British Columbia


When a loved one passes away, it is an extremely devastating time for any family. After taking the necessary time to heal, and honor their life, friends and family must turn their attention to administering the deceased’s estate. The last thing on your mind would be whether someone else, be it a family member or friend, would take advantage of you and your family in such a vulnerable time.

Before a person dies, they often prepare a will or trust outlining their wishes as to the distribution of their assets, such as property or money, to their beneficiaries following their death. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to have your inheritance stolen by someone else, especially in situations where the ‘thief’ was not left any assets under the will but believed that they should have been.

If you believe that you’ve had your inheritance stolen by someone else, there are avenues of recourse available to you through the court system.

It is important to take steps to recover stolen inheritance promptly to protect your rights and ensure the estate assets are preserved. Seeking legal advice from an experienced estate attorney is the first step towards protecting your interests efficiently and effectively. The estate lawyers at Onyx Law Group specialize in cases of inheritance theft and are here to support you through the process.

This blog post navigates how to prove inheritance theft in BC through legal action to protect the people involved.

Inheritance Theft

Inheritance Theft

Inheritance theft or ‘inheritance hijacking’ occurs when one or more individuals steal the assets, property, or funds allocated to someone else in a will or trust. This can occur in various ways, such as fraud, coercion, or the manipulation of legal documents.

A common example of inheritance hijacking occurs in situations of undue influence, where a person in authority persuades a vulnerable individual to change their estate plan in their favor. Another example is attorney abuse, or when someone appointed as a power of attorney exploits their authority by transferring money out of the estate accounts.

Inheritance hijacking can have devastating effects on a beneficiary, such as:

  1. Financial Loss: This is especially troubling for beneficiaries who depend on their inheritance for financial stability and future plans. For example, where an ‘only beneficiary’ has lost both their mother and father and thus relied on their inheritance for their future.
  2. Emotional Distress: Realizing that your inheritance has been stolen by people close to you can be emotionally devastating, especially if the theft was committed by close family members such as your mom, dad, brother, or sister.
  3. Legal Challenges: Estate disputes are often time-consuming, and lengthy, and can result in the need to pay extensive legal fees.

Executors play a critical role in preventing inheritance hijacking, as they are responsible for managing the estate of the deceased person and ensuring that their assets are distributed and/or paid according to the terms of their will. An executor must prepare a full accounting for the beneficiaries as a means to prevent inheritance hijacking. The duty of an executor is to maintain open and transparent communication with the beneficiaries throughout the probate process and keep their best interests in mind.

Signs of Inheritance Theft

Signs of Inheritance Theft

One of the biggest signs of inheritance hijacking occurs when legal documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney are changed without any reasonable explanation. This can include changes in favor of one of the beneficiaries over another or naming someone unexpected as a beneficiary.

Another sign of inheritance hijacking includes the sudden transfer of property or money out of a person’s bank account shortly before their death. This is also an indication of financial abuse or theft.

As discussed, a lack of transparency on the part of an executor is a red flag. Executors who are secretive about the administration of an estate and/or who refuse to provide a copy of the will, or information about the status of the estate administration may be hiding something. Beneficiaries should be made aware of each step of the administration process and the executor should be willing to discuss the will and its administration and answer any questions or concerns they may have.

Steps to Prove Inheritance Theft in BC

Steps to Prove Inheritance Theft in BC

Proving inheritance hijacking in British Columbia involves gathering evidence and presenting it in a court proceeding. Generally, the steps in commencing the legal process are as follows:

  1. Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant evidence to support your claims. This may include wills, trusts, communications (e.g. emails, text messages, social media posts), witness statements, bank statements, and other financial documents.
  2. Consult with an Estate Attorney: Consult with an experienced estate lawyer to understand your legal rights, assess the merits of your case and how it compares to other cases, and determine your chances of success.
  3. Assess the Evidence: Specifically, examining suspicious financial transactions, interviewing witnesses who may have knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the estate plan, and documenting cases of coercion or undue influence.
  4. File a Claim: If you believe you or someone else in your family is the victim of inheritance hijacking, you may need to commence a claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
  5. Participate in Mediation, Negotiation, or Court Proceedings: You may choose to resolve the dispute outside of court through mediation or negotiations. However, if those attempts are unsuccessful, the matter may need to proceed to trial.

If you are concerned that you or someone you love has been subjected to inheritance hijacking, it is important to act quickly and contact our office to discuss your options. Rest assured, the estate law lawyers at Onyx Law Group have a wealth of experience resolving disputes between executors, beneficiaries, and other interested parties, and they are ready to help protect your inheritance in the courts of law.

Legal Actions

Legal Actions

British Columbia has various inheritance laws and regulations in place to protect beneficiaries against inheritance theft. The Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”) sets out the requirements for a legally binding will or trust. There are limited circumstances in which a will can be changed after death and WESA sets out those exceptions. Any attempts to otherwise alter a deceased’s estate plan are considered unlawful.

If you become aware of an issue pertaining to the administration of an estate, i.e. concerns surrounding the validity of a will, the actions of an executor, or the distribution of assets, you have the option to file a Notice of Dispute with the BC Supreme Court. A Notice of Dispute effectively prevents the court from issuing a Grant of Probate to the executor pending resolution of the dispute. Executors are generally unable to disperse money or property belonging to the deceased until a Grant of Probate is issued. If you are interested in filing a Notice of Dispute, we urge you to contact an estate lawyer as soon as possible to review the requirements for doing so, including the applicable time restraints.

If probate has already been granted, then beneficiaries can demand an accounting from the executor to find out more about what has been happening with the estate.

If there are concerns about the validity of the will, then you can possibly sue to set aside the will due to suspicious circumstances.

If the will is valid but is unfair, and you are a spouse or child of the deceased, then you potentially have a wills variation action to obtain a fair share of the estate.

If you would like to discuss your options to take legal action to recapture your stolen inheritance, please contact our office and our experienced team of lawyers and paralegals will be happy to help you.

Preventative Measures

Preventative Measures

Working with an experienced estate lawyer is the first step to ensuring that your wishes are respected following your death. A well-drafted will or trust can prevent disputes and minimize the risk of inheritance theft, thus protecting your family members and friends.

Due to the financial and emotional distress often caused due to these issues, it is necessary to deal with them promptly. This is especially true for vulnerable individuals, such as those who have lost both parents and who rely heavily on their inheritance for financial stability. For instance, if a dad passed away, leaving an ‘only beneficiary’ in a vulnerable position, it becomes all the more important that their rights and assets be protected. Likewise, in situations, where a mom died, the daughter/son of the deceased might be left heartbroken upon realizing that their inheritance has been stolen. An executor plays a critical role in preventing such occurrences by always maintaining transparent communication and managing the estate administration process, which includes handling taxes and meticulously reviewing bank statements.

Be sure to review and update your estate plan regularly to align with your current circumstances. Be wary of individuals who may try to influence you for financial gain, especially as you age. Consider taking safeguards to protect yourself against exploitation, such as setting up joint bank accounts, powers of attorney, or other arrangements with respect to your money and property.

Choosing the Right Executor

It is important to be proactive in protecting others from inheritance hijacking following your death. This starts with good estate planning with a reputable estate law lawyer, alongside those who are closest to you. Choosing an executor that you trust, such as your mom, dad, older/ younger brother/sister, daughter, son, or close friend, is paramount. You will want to ensure that the individual(s) you select are trustworthy, reliable, and capable of carrying out your wishes.

Do you believe that you are the victim of inheritance hijacking? Is the executor of your father or mother’s estate avoiding your questions? We invite you to contact the capable estate lawyers at Onyx Law Group to discuss your rights and take legal action, if necessary. We are here to help you navigate through the challenges of the court system toward a positive outcome.

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