You may not think having a last will and testament is important. But consider the possibility that if you do not make a will, someone else might create one in your name. While not common, will forgery does occur, and the internet makes it easier than ever for someone to present a fraudulent document to a probate court.
Arkansas Realtor Accused of Defrauding Estate of Deepwater Horizon Victim
Recently a federal grand jury in Arkansas indicted a woman for numerous criminal offenses arising from an alleged will forgery. The woman is also facing a civil lawsuit from the legitimate heirs of the deceased individual’s estate. Please note these lawsuits are merely allegations and have not yet been proven in a court of law.
The decedent was a 34-year-old man who died in a car accident in 2015. Five years earlier, the decedent worked on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform. A fire on the platform caused an explosion. After burning for more than a day, the Deepwater Horizon sank, killing 11 workers and spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
BP, the owner of Deepwater Horizon, eventually settled a number of legal actions related to the accident for $20 billion. This included a class action filed by the decedent and other workers who survived the explosion. At the time of his death, the decedent left an estate worth about $1.7 million, which consisted primarily of proceeds from the class action settlement.
According to an indictment obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice, a real estate agent living in Camden, Arkansas conspired with others to steal the decedent’s estate by creating a fake will. The defendant was not related to the decedent. Their only connection was that the defendant’s daughter had previously dated the decedent.
The decedent’s family was unable to locate a will. Under Arkansas law, the decedent’s entire estate would have then passed to his son, his only surviving heir. But the defendant allegedly used an online legal document service to prepare a will in the decedent’s name leaving the majority of the estate to her daughter, while giving the decedent’s son just $50,000.
This will was admitted to probate. According to the indictment, the defendant’s daughter fraudulently received over $900,000 from the estate, some of which was used to buy a new car for the defendant. The indictment charges the defendant with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. The case is scheduled for trial in early 2017.
Get Help Making a Will Today
Even if you are not the beneficiary of a multi-million personal injury settlement, you no doubt have property you wish to leave to your chosen beneficiaries. Do not assume that everything will just work itself out even if you do not leave a will. As the story above illustrates, the absence of a will can leave a vacuum that unscrupulous individuals may try and fill. If you need help making a will from an experienced San Diego estate planning attorney, contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady today