Various Means Used to Steal Money from Inheritance, Chapter One

Based on cases and the experience Sage Investigations, LLC gleaned from inheritance cases; Sage has identified an area of investigation that we refer to as the Inheritance Investigative.

Weekly we receive a call from frustrated individuals dealing with a brother or sister or aunt or uncle who is the administrator of the estate of their mother or father. Their parent has left a will for a sizable estate, and now someone has control of it and does not communicate with the beneficiaries.

In one case, it all started when a sister (mother) signed a Power of Attorney to one of her sisters (aunt). The mother’s husband had preceded her in death, and the siblings were a brother and sister. Acting on the Power of Attorney, the aunt moved her sister into a nursing home because she had dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The mother could not take care of her personal and financial affairs, and none of the siblings were near enough to help. The aunt proceeded to isolate her sister from her children. While the mother was alive, the aunt sold the mother’s home for six figures. After the mother’s death, the beneficiaries asked for an accounting of the proceeds from the sale of the home, and the aunt declined to respond.

In Texas, the main requirements to serve as executor in Texas include:

  • They must be at least 18 years old.
  • They must be of sound mind, which means that a court of competent jurisdiction has not deemed them to be mentally incapacitated.
  • They must be a U.S. resident.
  • They cannot be a convicted felon.

In Texas law, it is well established that the testator (person who makes a will) has the right to select their executor. Before death, the decedent may designate in their will an executor, which grants them a statutory priority to serve. (Tex. App.–Amarillo 1999, no pet.)

The duties of an executor of a will include all tasks involved in administering, distributing, and wrapping up the estate. An executor’s duties in Texas require them to:

  • Locate and notify all beneficiaries of the will;
  • Give notice to the decedent’s creditors;
  • Identify and collect all the decedent’s assets;
  • Take steps to maintain and protect the assets;
  • Pay all the decedent’s debts;
  • Bring a wrongful death suit, if appropriate, if family members do not;
  • Complete any pending legal action the decedent was involved in before their death;
  • Prepare and file tax returns;
  • Account for all assets and payments made by the estate; and
  • Distribute the assets in accordance with the will.

In fulfilling these tasks, the executor of an estate in Texas has a fiduciary duty to act for the estate’s benefit.

The court has broad discretion in determining whether a person is “unsuitable” and, therefore, disqualified to serve as executor. In some instances, the qualifications of the executor can be contested. In re Estate of Boren, 268 S.W.3d 841 (Tex. App.–Texarkana 2008, pet. denied) (the court found the decedent’s nephew unsuitable because as attorney-in-fact for decedent prior to her death, he used funds for his personal benefit).

When preparing a will, it is essential to consider the executor or administrator of your estate. Almost anyone can be an executor, “many are called, but few are chosen.” It takes integrity to assume the role of a fiduciary for an estate and its beneficiaries.

If your law firm requires a private investigator or forensic accountant regarding an Inheritance fraud matter, contact Chief Investigator Edmond Martin of Sage Investigations, LLC at 512-659-3179 or email him at We offer a free 20-minute consult. Visit our website at www.Sageinvestigations.comClick to read about our team and their CVs.