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Probate problems – and why it pays to make a Will

A shocking case was highlighted recently, giving details of an NHS bereavement advisor, who robbed a number of relatives and charitable organisations of thousands of pounds which were left to them in Wills.

The advisor in question is thought to have carried out this fraudulent activity over a period of seven years, and was only caught after a relative became suspicious and came forward, two years after a patient’s death.  It has since been revealed that she used a number of tactics to retrieve the money left as assets for herself, including visiting the home of the deceased to search for a Will or allegedly uncover details of any surviving relatives, offering to obtain a Grant of Probate on behalf of grieving relatives, amending a Will to name herself as Executor and in the case of those who died intestate, forging letters of authority from fictitious relatives, to apply for probate.

The woman even had the nerve, when she realised her activities had been uncovered by a relative, to try and pay her off, offering her £100,000.

Although she is now currently serving a five year prison sentence for fraud, trying to recover the stolen money has been a lengthy and complicated process, with the NHS Litigation Authority footing most of the bill.

Thankfully, cases of fraud such as this – particularly when it is preying upon the particularly vulnerable, are rare.  However, it highlights the fact that it is vital to not only have a Will in place, but to inform the Executors involved exactly where all of the relevant documentation has been stored.  Regardless of whether you intend to leave money to a number of loved ones or your favourite charities, a copy of the Will should also be left with your Executors, to avoid probate problems or even potential fraud from occurring in the event of your death.

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