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Ask Dave

Forging Before Death

Keith's sister has some serious nerve, given what Keith discovered recently.

QUESTION: Keith in Texas says before his mother died, she learned his sister was forging checks for her personal gain. She took at least $10,000 and did not have a power of attorney. Keith asks for help in dealing with this criminal activity.

Dave's ANSWER: This is criminal fraud. The bottom line is that, out of $50,000, your sister sole $10,000. Sit down with your sister and say that you've been involved with your mother's affairs and your sister stole $10,000 from her. Mom knew she was a thief and turned this over to the bank, and if she were still alive, you might be going to jail.

We are going to probate the will and I'll be named executor of the will. She will get her half minus $10,000 because she stole it. If she fights you on that for even a second, take the whole file to the district attorney and have her put in jail. See how that goes.

You may be a little nicer and more diplomatic than that, but you need to use a big enough stick to get her attention because this woman is arrogant, and it's going to be a while before she realizes she's a thief if she doesn't own up to it.

If she gets real quiet and says to do whatever you have to do, that means you used a big enough stick. If she bows up her back, you need to hit her with something a little harder. Start at whatever level of confrontation you think is necessary to set the tone right.

Then get an estate planning attorney and probate the estate. Have the court probate it and assign the assets to you and your sister and your older brother. You would each get a third of the estate, and your sister gets one third minus $10,000 because that's at least what she stole.