A fraudulent transfer of estate assets occurs when assets are transferred upon a deceptive or fraudulent basis. This includes gifts/ bequests made under a will or trust when the person who created the will or trust is under undue influence or coercion. Fraudulent transfers of assets belonging to a New York estate may involve assets such as real estate, bank accounts, stock certificates, bonds, and other assets. An experienced New York estate litigation attorney can assist with determining whether or not an asset was transferred fraudulently or if there was any other illegal activity that may have occurred.
Often times a fraudulent transfer of estate assets occur when a person is in a weakened physical or mental condition. A family member or caregiver may exert undue influence or coerces them into making financial and legal decisions such as creating a will or trust or changing an existing will or trust making the person their sole beneficiary or giving them a substantial portion of their assets.
So for example, let’s say that your estranged sister was your dad’s primary caretaker. After his death, you learn that your dad left all his assets to your sister even though he promised to leave you the family retail business. You suspect that your sister may have influenced his decision because you find out that a couple months before he died, he changed his will. Since he had dementia and barely recognized you the last time you visited him, you decide to challenge the will by filing a will contest proceeding with the New York Surrogate’s Court claiming that the will was invalid and that the assets were fraudulently transferred to your sister.
Another example is when one person tricks another person into signing something that they do not understand or a person’s signature is forged by another with the intent to receive a financial benefit or monetary gain from transferring ownership of real estate. This could involve the transfer of real estate of a person’s home or transfer of a business ownership to an unscrupulous business associate or partner.
Fraudulent transfers of estate assets can also occur when a personal representative of a New York estate decides to transfer estate assets directly to their own account for their own financial benefit. This is illegal and considered a breach of fiduciary duty. A personal representative is liable for any financial harm caused to the estate or the beneficiaries. If prosecuted and found guilty, the personal representative could be ordered by the Court to make restitution to the estate or the beneficiaries for their financial losses.
Getting Fraudulent Assets Returned to the Estate
If you are a beneficiary or heir to a New York estate, and you suspect that your loved ones assets were wrongfully taken or transferred, you have the right to assert a claim with the New York Surrogate’s Court within the statutory period of time asking them to order the asset be returned to the estate. Since fraudulent transfer issues are complex and emotionally upsetting to family members and beneficiaries, it is important to have an experienced probate lawyer in NY review the situation to determine if a fraudulent transfer of estate assets was involved. Mike St. Pre is a top NYC estate litigation attorney can advise you of the best way to handle the matter and represent you in Court.