Your mother just passed away a few weeks ago, and you and your siblings have yet to begin the painful process of cleaning out the family home. You figure there’s plenty of time.
Once you finally get around to the job, you find everything gone and someone else living in your mother’s house. They claim they own the home – and have the paperwork to prove it. You may have just become a victim of a scam that’s growing more popular by the year: deed fraud.
It’s identity theft combined with house stealing
While there are other variations of this scam that prey on the living, a lot of property title theft involves the recently deceased. Scammers monitor the obituary pages and look for homes that have been left temporarily vacant by the owner’s death. Then they simply forge the deceased owner’s name on the deed and transfer the title of the house to themselves.
Some may move into their newly stolen home, but most scammers will either rent the home to unwitting tenants or sell the home to unwitting buyers. Either way, by the time all of the victims know what’s happened, they’re long gone.
How can someone prevent deed fraud?
There are several ways people can protect against home fraud, but one of the best is simple vigilance. Homeowners should consider putting their homes in trusts so they can’t be easily stolen, or they can instruct their executors to open probate on their estate immediately, which will also make it much harder. Close monitoring of the property is also essential, and that should be part of the executor’s duties.
Deed fraud isn’t something that a lot of people consider when making their estate plans – and it’s definitely not anything that bereaved heirs expect. Learn more about your options for handling these kinds of issues with a solid estate plan.