When a person dies, their assets are typically transferred to their beneficiaries through probate.
It can be a lengthy and complicated process, which is why some people choose to hire a professional to help them deal with probate. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous individuals who prey on people going through probate.
In Maryland, there are steps you can take to avoid being scammed during probate.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s estate after their death.
What are Probate Scams?
When a loved one dies, it is often a difficult and emotional time. Unfortunately, there are people who will try to take advantage of this time of vulnerability.
One way they do this is by promising to help the family avoid probate, for a fee. Then they may try to scam them out of money or property. This is known as a probate scam.
How to avoid probate scams in Maryland
There are a few things you can do to avoid probate fraud in Maryland.
Work with a Licensed Probate & Estate Planning Attorney
It is important to work with a licensed and reputable probate attorney when going through probate. The attorney can help you understand how probate works so you can avoid probate scammers.
Get all Promises and Agreements Regarding the Probate in Writing
If you are going through the probate process, it is important to get all promises and agreements in writing.
This will help to protect your interests and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Having everything in writing will also make it easier to resolve any disagreements that may arise and help you to avoid probate scams.
Only Sign Things you Fully Understand to Avoid Probate Scams
If you don’t fully understand something, don’t sign it. This includes documents related to your estate and finances.
Probate scams are unfortunately common, and signing something you don’t understand can give scammers access to your hard-earned money and assets.
If you have any questions about a document, make sure to get clarification from a trusted source before putting your signature on the dotted line.
Ask Your Attorney Questions You Have About Probate
If you are going through the probate process, you may have many questions about what to expect when selling an inherited house.
It is important to ask your attorney any questions that you have so that you can be fully prepared for the process. Your attorney will be able to provide you with guidance and answer any specific questions that you may have about probate.
Warning Signs of a Probate Scam
When someone dies, their assets must go through probate before they can be distributed to beneficiaries. This process can be time-consuming and expensive, so it’s no wonder that scammers try to take advantage of grieving families.
Here are some warning signs that you may be dealing with a probate scam:
- The scammer offers to help you with the probate process for a fee. Probate is a court-supervised process, so you shouldn’t have to pay anyone to help you with it, aside from a probate attorney or legal professional if you choose to hire one.
- The scammer tells you that you can avoid dealing with probate by transferring assets to them now. This is not true – in most cases, assets must go through probate regardless of who owns them.
- The scammer says they can speed up the probate process for an additional fee. Again, this is not possible – the court sets the timeline for probate and it cannot be expedited.
If you’re dealing with the death of a loved one, be on the lookout for these red flags. Don’t let a scammer take advantage of your vulnerability during this difficult time.
How to Report a Probate Scam in Maryland
In Maryland, if you believe you have been the victim of a probate scam, you should contact the Office of the Attorney General. You can file a complaint online or by calling 1-888-743-0023.