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Woman ordered to pay back over $1 million in probate case

Many people in Texas expect to inherit money from their families at some point. In Milwaukee, a family sued in probate court over a $1.6 million inheritance that had been left to the financial adviser of a deceased millionaire. The family was awarded most of the inheritance in a settlement, leaving the financial adviser with only about $150,000, enough to cover her court costs and attorney fees.

The man died at age 92 of dementia. He developed a friendship with his financial adviser during his final years and had little contact with relatives. She soon became his power of attorney and the sole beneficiary of two annuities and executor and sole beneficiary of his estate.

After the man's death, the woman collected over $1 million from the two annuities. The man's family objected to the will, alleging that she had pressured him to leave all his assets to her. She was then ordered to give the money back to the estate pending a final resolution of the case.

The woman's deteriorating health led to settlement talks. If the case had proceeded to trial, it is possible that the family could have been awarded more if they had proven to the court that the woman acted in bad faith.

In a probate case, it is not unusual for heirs to contest the validity of a will. An estate planning attorney may be able to assist with matters related to probate litigation. In many cases, litigants contesting a will allege that the person who signed the will was not competent to make decisions regarding his or her estate, or that the person was forced to make changes due to duress or fraud perpetrated by the person asking them to change their will.

Source: USA Today, "Family of recluse millionaire will get back $1.6 million estate in insurance fraud case", Mary Spicuzza, 10/03/2018

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