Unfortunately, when it comes to estate management there are times when the person who should be trusted the most ends up committing fraud against the estate. These situations usually involve the executor or another individual who is intimately involved in the handling of the estate. Luckily, under Michigan law there is recourse for situations like these, with the penalties for stealing from an estate clearly laid out.
Details and Recourse
Under MCL 700.1205, there are four subsections that lay out the process of handling estate fraud in Michigan. Under subsection (1), the probate court is given the authority to order an individual before the court if there is a complaint filed alleging wrongdoing by another individual who has standing to do so – such as an heir to the estate. These complaints can include alleged offenses such as concealing, embezzling or selling the property of a decedent’s estate.
If this complaint is acted upon by the court, there is the possibility that the accused will be ordered to appear before the court. In the event that they do not appear before the court, the court is actually granted the authority under subsection (2) to have the accused individual committed to the county jail until they have satisfied the court’s original order to appear and/or answer the questions asked by the judge.
Other situations involving fraud are handled by subsections (3) and (4). Fraud that is committed in connection with a proceeding or statement filed under the Estates and Protected Individuals code is handled by subsection (3), which gives victims of the estate fraud the opportunity to pursue action within two years of the discovery of fraud. However, this is limited to up to five years from the date that the fraud was alleged to have been committed. It should be noted that this subsection does not have any effect on the remedy relating to fraud that affects the succession of a decedent’s estate during their lifetime.
Lastly, subsection (4) deals with situations where the accused embezzles or wrongfully converts the property of the decedent before any letters of authority are granted. It also applies in situations where the accused refuses to transfer possession of the decedent’s property to the assigned personal representative upon their request. In these situations, the accused is liable to have action brought against them by the estates personal representative, seeking damages of double the value of the property that was embezzled, converted or withheld from the estate.
Hiring The Right Attorney For Estate Fraud
Properly bringing accusations before a court as well as handling legal proceedings is a complex task. With estate fraud, usually the perpetrator has gone to significant lengths to cover up their wrongdoing. Because of this, it is strongly recommended for victims of estate fraud to reach out to an attorney or law firm specializing in estate law and fraud cases. An experienced estate litigation attorney can clearly state your case before a court in order to ensure the fraud is properly pursued.
On the other hand, when someone is accused of estate fraud, it’s in the best interest of the accused individual to hire a lawyer that’s experienced in fraud defense. This is particularly true when the case involves potential criminal activity. In these cases, the accused individual may require counsel that’s experienced with not only litigation defense, but also, criminal defense.