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How to prosecute someone for stealing from probate

Updated March 23, 2017

When someone dies and leaves behind money or property, a probate court appoints an executor to oversee the estate and distribute the assets to the heirs. If you believe the executor is stealing from the estate, you have the option of filing charges against him. This can be a difficult task, since many prosecutors are unwilling to take on what they perceive as a family matter. Many lawyers recommend settling the issue in civil court, but this won't do much good if the money's already gone.

Make copies of all the evidence. Get a copy of the will and other documents filed with the probate court. Make copies of any letters or financial statements sent to you and other victims by the executor.

Decide if you want a criminal prosecution or a civil prosecution. If you file criminal charges, the executor of the estate may end up going to jail. If you file a civil lawsuit, the executor may be required to pay back some of the stolen assets.

Take your evidence to the police department and to the district attorney's office if you decide to file criminal charges. Sign a complaint against the person you believe is stealing from the estate. Keep in mind that many prosecutors are unwilling to prosecute estate-fraud cases, especially when the executor is a family member of the deceased.

Hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit if you decide to prosecute the matter in civil court. Choose a lawyer who specialises in probate matters. Keep in mind that even if you win the lawsuit, you won't get any money if the executor has no assets and has already spent the stolen money.

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About the Author

Alan Sembera began writing for local newspapers in Texas and Louisiana. His professional career includes stints as a computer tech, information editor and income tax preparer. Sembera now writes full time about business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.