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How To Get Away With LPA & Probate Fraud

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

One area of work which my firm deals with is addressing Lasting Power of Attorney/Probate Fraud or those who simply ignore the relevant laws and do simply as they see fit.

According to a report by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), the cost of probate fraud is in the region of £150 million.

These figures are difficult to estimate but I think the problems are much worse not least of which since it is so fundamentally easy to commit LPA and probate fraud.

By what are the attributes of those who commit LPA and probate fraud? How do they manage to do it? And how do they get away with it as most actually do?

The sad reality is that most probate and LPA fraud is not detected.

There many attributes which those executors or attorneys display which enable them to conduct criminal behaviour and be confident that they can get away with it including….

They Exercise Strong Influence on the Vulnerable Person -The key thing that a would-be probate/LPA fraudster (Lets call him or her, X) will do is to exercise influence and manoeuvre the vulnerable person to give sole control (or effective control) of his or her assets to X. At a practical level, this can involve X becoming sole attorney and effective sole executor (or the other attorneys/executors are manoeuvred away), X changing the will (they apply undue influence but typically try to get the vulnerable to see a lawyer) of the vulnerable person and taking assets out of the estate either before and/or after death.

They Are Ruthless -To cut to the chase In my experience, the person X is utterly self-serving and cold blooded. Typically, other relatives (would be beneficiaries)) under-estimate the lengths that X will go to get what he or she wants. This puts X at a fundamental advantage as they use any card possible to achieve their objectives.

They Are Convincing  - From my knowledge, X will try to be convincing and will have no hesitation in lying, manipulating or accounting for his or her actions. I have seen would be LPA/fraudsters have no problem about lying (convincingly) about what is in the estate, why they have ignored judicial orders and will come up with a variety of delaying tactics for sapping the morale of other beneficiaries.

They Have Excellent Knowledge of the Law  -The successful individuals who get away with probate/LPA fraud have a good understanding of the law and will act accordingly. Typically, X will understand that while acting as an attorney it is difficult for other family members to show wrongdoing as they do not have access to the bank accounts which is a key piece of evidence Also, X knows that the Office of the Public Guardian will not investigate once the person dies which gives practical powerful legal protection. If X is appointed sole executor the legal rights of the proper beneficiaries can be limited and if so, X will exploit this.

They Minimise Their Tracks - Probably the biggest Achilles-heel of a potential LPA/Probate fraudster is the lack of ability to cover their tracks. What can cause his or her undoing is simple greed and/or lack of patience. Thus, the successful LPA & Probate fraudster will be very careful in the way in which they take money out of the estate otherwise they run the risk of getting caught.