The Penalty For Stealing From An Estate You’ll Want To Avoid

Penalty For Stealing From An Estate - Inheritance Theft Laws - My Inheritance Was Stolen - Theft From Estate Before Inventory - Inheritance Theft By Sibli

You’re wondering what the penalty for stealing from an estate is. 

Maybe you’re a beneficiary being wronged or an executor “considering your options.”

Either way, this article will cover:

  • the penalty for stealing from an estate
  • what the consequences are
  • how you can protect yourself
  • what actions you need to take in the case of inheritance theft

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

When the courts appoint an administrator to an estate, they can choose anyone. This includes creditors or third-party companies. Meaning you and your family lose all control over the estate.

If you want to create a will for your estate or file a petition to become the administrator of an estate, fill out the form below for a free consultation. Free consultations are first come first serve. We always run out of slots. Make sure you get yours locked in now.

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Inheritance Theft Laws

Inheritance theft laws give you the grounds to remove an executor of an estate. 

Inheritance theft laws force the executor to return stolen assets and pay for damages

An executor can get sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for breaking inheritance theft laws. 

But inheritance theft laws also apply to the beneficiaries. 

The executor’s job is to secure the property of the estate and inventory it immediately. 

This prevents inheritance theft of items such as:

  • family photos
  • family heirlooms
  • furniture
  • cash hidden in the home
  • jewelry, artwork, or antiques  

But inheritance theft laws prevent not-so-obvious inheritance theft, too. 

This inheritance theft includes things like:

  • Undocumented Loans – the descendent being owed back money they lent out.
  • Forged Documents – new wills showing up with different instructions than the original.
  • Destroying Documents – destroying a will so the estate gets distributed per intestate laws.
  • Embezzlement – funneling money from the estate into personal accounts.
  • Denigration of Heirs – heirs lying about each other to the grantor to alter inheritance amounts.   

What should you do if inheritance theft has occurred?

Any of the heirs can get a court order stating that the missing items have to get returned. 

If the items are not returned after obtaining a court order, hire an estate litigation attorney. 

They understand the penalty for stealing from an estate. 

And they know how to prove inheritance theft to get the inheritance returned.

Related: What An Executor Cannot Do

My Inheritance Was Stolen

“My inheritance was stolen,” is something we hear far too often from people. 

Usually, when an inheritance is stolen, it only takes a demand letter from an attorney to get it back. 

This is because the penalty for stealing from an estate can be very serious. 

In most cases, whoever is stealing from an estate will voluntarily give the property back. 

If they do not return the stolen inheritance, the next step is court

The courts provide the person stealing the inheritance with a court order to return the property

A lot of times, the courts will make them pay for the attorney fees, costs, and other damages as well. 

“What should I do if my inheritance is stolen?”

Hire an attorney to send them the demand letter and file a petition for a court order. 

Related: How Long Do You Have To Probate A Will?

Penalty For Stealing From An Estate

The penalty for stealing from an estate can be pretty intense

Usually, they don’t escalate to criminal charges, 

When it comes to the penalty for stealing from an estate, there are two types. 

Civil Penalty For Stealing From An Estate

This section is covering the civil penalties for stealing from an estate. 

Turnover Of Property

To reclaim stolen inheritance, heirs will file a petition for Discovery and Turnover.

The petition needs to list the property that was stolen. 

And it needs to include the suspected location of the property. 

When you file the petition, you need to be able to prove that the property was stolen. 

And prove that the decedent owned the property. 

The person who stole the inheritance may claim that it was gifted to them. 

But they will have to prove the inheritance was gifted in response to your petition. 

Related: What If The Executor Does Not Probate The Will

Surcharging The Estate

Another penalty for stealing from the estate is surcharging the inheritance of the heir. 

Let’s say that an heir has stolen money or not paid the money back that’s owed to the estate

In this case, the courts can reduce their inheritance to make up for this money. 

And the courts will split this amount of money between the remaining heirs as needed. 

Read More: What Is The Punishment For Taking Money From A Deceased Account?

Discharging The Executor

The courts will discharge an executor from their role as a penalty for stealing from an estate. 

The courts will normally place a beneficiary into the role of executor. 

Reimbursement Of Attorney's Fees

Let’s say that you have to hire an attorney to chase down a stolen inheritance. 

The courts will make the person stealing reimburse the other parties for attorney’s fees. 

Usually, this will get taken out of the estate. 

But the courts will order the person stealing to reimburse the estate for that money. 

Related: Getting A Last Will And Testament

Waiving The Executor's Commissions

An executor can be forced to waive their commission as a penalty for stealing from an estate. 

Executors can charge the estate for the work they do managing the distribution of the estate

The courts will make them waive this commission. 

Related: Estate Planning Checklist

Criminal Penalty For Stealing From An Estate

It’s not likely that the courts will impose a criminal penalty for stealing from an estate. 

But sometimes they do. 

So, let’s go over the criminal penalties. 

Imprisonment Penalty For Stealing From An Estate

Amount StolenType of Grand LarcenyFelony ClassPenalty
$1,000 up to $3,0004th DegreeClass E Felonyup to 4 years in prison
$3,001 up to $50,0003rd DegreeClass D Felonyup to 7 years in prison
$50,001 up to $1M2nd DegreeClass C Felonyup to 15 years in prison
$1M+1st DegreeClass B Felonyup to 25 years in prison

Restitution For Stealing From An Estate

The courts will force the person stealing to return the property and pay restitution

Restitution is ordering a defendant to compensate the victims for the losses they suffered. 

Theft From Estate Before Inventory

A theft from estate before inventory is harder to prove. 

The executor, who is doing the estate inventory can steal items and not inventory them. 

Beneficiaries who live close by can steal from an estate before inventory is done. 

To prove that there was theft from estate before inventory, there has to be evidence. 

This evidence of theft from the estate can be documents or testimonies. 

Sometimes lawyers will hire forensic accountants to prove theft from an estate before inventory. 

Related: Why You Need A Quit Claim Deed

Executor Stole From Estate

What happens if the executor stole from the estate? 

If an executor stole from the estate, they can face consequences, such as:

  • being removed as executor
  • get ordered to repay for stolen funds
  • get ordered to return stolen property  

In some cases, if an executor stole from an estate, they can have criminal charges pressed. 

Depending on the size of the theft from the estate, they can face years in prison. 

Inheritance Theft By Siblings

Inheritance theft by siblings gets treated as a civil matter. 

Meaning that, for inheritance theft by siblings, there is no jail time. 

But when there is inheritance theft by siblings, you have the option to make a criminal complaint. 

If proven guilty, your sibling can go to jail for inheritance theft. 

What Can I Do If An Executor Steals Money

“What can I do if an executor steals money?”

State laws have a time limit for you to take action when an executor steals money. 

Most states have a 3-month time limit for contesting an executor of a will. 

If an executor steals money from the estate, you need to gather evidence. 

Then, you can file a petition with the courts to obtain a court order. 

This court order will force the executor to return the money. 

The courts will also replace them as an executor. 

Related: How To Get A Power Of Attorney

Protect Your Inheritance

If you suspect that inheritance theft has occurred, fill out the form below. 

We can get your inheritance returned. 

This way, you don’t lose tens of thousands of dollars

And you don’t lose meaningful items from your loved ones. 

You end up getting everything you deserved from your inheritance. 

Talk soon. 

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