Firstly, do you suspect, or do you have a family member who is hiding a will? This article will teach you if they are violating the law, What are the legal responsibilities, What are your (the recipient’s) rights, how to tell if a family member is keeping well hidden, and finally, what should you do if a family member is hiding a will?
Let us begin.
Family Member Hiding Will: Is It Illegal for A Family Member to Conceal A Will?
Yes, family members who conceal a will violate the law.
It is considered a violation of a dead person’s desire to hide a Will. It is also a breach of legal and ethical responsibility
Notably, people write Wills to specify how their estate will be allocated when they die
Furthermore, a family member conceals a will is obstructing the fulfillment of the deceased’s desires.
It is regarded as a significant breach of trust and It has legal ramifications.
Although family members may conceal a will if they are displeased with its contents or feel they would profit more if the will is not discovered. This activity may result in legal action, such as criminal prosecution or civil charges (i.e., family members suing)
However, if you feel a family member is attempting to conceal a will, your attorney can file a petition with the Probate Courts.
The probate courts can force the family member to provide the will.
Moreover, it is the more effective method of bringing the will out of hiding.
Family Members Who Hide Wills May Face Criminal Charges
In addition, if an executor is found guilty of concealing a will, depending on the facts, they might face a variety of criminal charges.
The following are some of the potential accusations that an executor might face for concealing a will:
Firstly, It is considered theft for an executor to take custody of a deceased’s assets.
Secondly, fraud occurs when an executor changes or forges the deceased person’s will to benefit herself or others.
Obstruction of justice occurs when an executor obstructs or interferes with the probate procedure by concealing the will.
Court contempt is when the executor refuses to comply with a court order to reveal the whereabouts of the will or to submit the will to the proper probate court.
Breach of fiduciary obligation: Again, Executors are required by law and by ethics to operate in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. If they violate this obligation by concealing a will, they may face breach of fiduciary duty charges.
The criminal charges that family members may face for concealing a will are dependent on the following:
The Laws of the jurisdiction in which the case is heard.
The circumstances of the case.
Family Member Hiding Will: What Are Their Legal Responsibilities?
Equally important is the fact that an executor is the legal representative of the estate of a deceased individual.
When it comes to the will, an executor has particular legal requirements.
Here are some of their primary responsibilities:
The executor is responsible for filing the will with the relevant court and initiating the probate procedure.
It includes preparing legal documentation, alerting beneficiaries and creditors, and administering the estate’s assets.
Taking care of the estate.
The executor is in charge of the estate’s assets too. They must guarantee they are dispersed following the desires expressed in the will.
Acting with integrity.
Furthermore, the executor owes it to the estate and its beneficiaries to operate in good faith and in their best interests. This requires them to be honest and upfront in their acts and prevent conflicts of interest.
Defending the Will.
The executor must also take precautions to safeguard the Will from harm or loss. This involves storing the Will securely, such as in a bank-safe deposit box or a fireproof safe.
An executor cannot lawfully conceal a will.
It is the executor’s legal responsibility to:
Start the probate procedure by submitting the will to the relevant court.
Again, an executor who conceals a Will:
Breaches their legal responsibilities
may likely face legal ramifications.
Some frequent unlawful behaviors that an executor may engage in include:
Deliberately destroying the Will.
Destroying a will is a significant breach of the executor’s responsibilities. It may lead to legal action against them.
Refusing to reveal the whereabouts of the will.
Where an executor is aware of the location of the will but refuses to reveal it to the relevant persons it is a breach of their legal commitments.
An executor who fails to reveal facts about the estate or the distribution of assets breached their fiduciary obligation to act in good faith.
When a Family Member is Hiding A Will, Who Has Beneficiary Rights
When a family member hides a will, the following are some probable beneficiary rights:
The right to information.
Beneficiaries have the right to information about the estate. However, beneficiaries might take legal action to get the information they want.
Right to object to the will.
Also, they may be able to challenge the will in court. This might include contesting the will’s legitimacy and attempting to reverse it.
Possession of their fair portion of the estate.
Additionally, Will’s allocation of the estate to beneficiaries is their right. A legal action is an option for beneficiaries to uphold their rights and to make sure they get what is rightly theirs.
Correct to oust the executor.
The right to ask the court to oust the executor may belong to the beneficiaries. One who is more reliable and responsible may take their position.
Right to object to the executor’s acts.
Furthermore, Beneficiaries have the right to object to the executor of the estate’s decisions. If the executor is not operating in the estate’s best interest or abiding by their fiduciary obligations, it can involve mismanaging funds or dispersing assets against the testator’s wishes.
Ask for an account.
Beneficiaries can also ask the executor for a list of the estate’s assets and debts. This account should provide a breakdown of every estate-related revenue and cost. And it assists in ensuring effective estate management.
Right to promptly collect their portion of the estate.
Consider the scenario when a family member conceals the will or postpones the distribution of assets. Beneficiaries may be able to file a lawsuit to protect their rights and guarantee that they get what is due to them.
The ability to bring a lawsuit.
To safeguard their rights to the estate, beneficiaries also have the option to initiate a lawsuit. This can entail asking the court for compensation or other forms of assistance.
How to Determine Whether a Family Member Is Hiding a Will
Determining whether a family member keeps a will a secret might be challenging.
However, several indicators might point to this.
Here are some items with which we have assisted our clients:
Not enough communication. The executor of the decedent’s estate is refusing to engage in conversation. Or they fail to provide updates on the progress of the will or the probate procedure.
Missing paperwork. If you know the deceased had a will but cannot find it.
Suspicious conduct. Suppose a relative is acting strangely or appears to be concealing something.
Changes to beneficiaries or asset distribution. The deceased’s preferences about the division of their property appear to have changed abruptly.
Transparency is lacking. The will’s executor does not frequently report on its progress. Or they are withholding crucial details regarding the estate.
What Should You Do If A Family Member Is Hiding A Will?
Speak to the relative. Try to speak with the family member you suspect of concealing the will as a first step. Justify your belief that a will exists and the need to find it. Try to enter the conversation with composure and decorum.
Seek other copies. Check to see if there are any copies of the will if you can not find the original. It is possible that the decedent gave a copy of their will to their attorney or another member of their family. Verify any personal files or safe deposit boxes where the deceased may have kept critical papers.
Consult a lawyer. Consult with a lawyer if you are still unable to find the will. If you can take legal action, an attorney can research it for you.
Think about going to court. If you think the relative is attempting to conceal the will. You might need to file a lawsuit. The family member may be required to present the will by a probate court. Additionally, concealing a will on purpose has repercussions.
What if You Just Have a Copy of the Will?
Evidence. A copy of the will may be crucial proof in a court case. It can demonstrate that the decedent actually wrote a will. Additionally, it can offer hints as to where the original will could be.
Administration of estates. Sometimes, a copy of a will could be sufficient to start the estate administration procedure. This can help guarantee that the desires of the deceased are carried out and that the intended recipients of such assets get the distribution of those assets.
In conclusion, a deceased’s wishes are not carried out when a will is kept secret. Therefore, anyone in the family who conceals a will risk legal action and criminal prosecution. It is illegal for executors to conceal a will.