You Can’t Steal a House or Can You? TURNOVER PROCEEDINGS

We all know houses can be broken into and burglarized. But have you ever heard of a house actually being stolen? As a NY estate lawyer I can tell you it is absolutely possible to steal a house and it happens more frequently than one would think. Just when you think you have seen everything you find out that houses can be stolen as easily as any other property.

How are houses stolen?

Stealing a house is often done in the same manner one usually steals an estate in NY, undue influence. In fact fraudulent wills and fraudulent deed transfers usually go hand in hand. To the untrained eye fraudulent wills and deeds look legitimate in that they are drafted and executed by a lawyer acting in a seemingly professional capacity. However, when we scratch the surface of these documents we often find a trail of collusion and malice.

In a recent piece at, a Cleveland native returned home to bury his deceased mother. After the funeral, Jon Thomas drove up to the house he had grown up in. To his surprise a complete stranger was living in the house. Of course Jon Thomas did what anyone of us would do, call the police. However when the police showed up they informed Mr. Thomas that there was nothing they could do.

You see just before the end of his mother’s life, when she was at her feeblest and weakest state, after being placed in a nursing home the house was fraudulently deeded to another party. Technically this new owner was the rightful owner and Mr. Thomas’s attorney had no idea how to get it back.

Unlike Mr. Thomas’s attorney our NY estate lawyers handle these cases on a daily basis. We are no strangers to these dastardly deeds, quite literally. Unlike Mr. Thomas’s case, in most instances the deed is fraudulently conveyed to a close family member. This adds an extra layer of complexity, as it is more conceivable for a dying person to deed their property to a close family member than a stranger.

However, to the trained eyes of an experienced NY estate lawyer we can spot a fraudulent deed transfer fairly quickly. Here are some of the details we look at.

First, was there any consideration paid for the deed transfer, if so how much? Second, we look to see how close to the transferor’s death the deed was transferred? These deeds are almost always transferred within close proximity to the transferor’s death when they are no longer making sound decisions. Third, was there also a will that suspiciously left the remainder of the transferor’s estate to this transferee? In our experience, transferee’s of fraudulent wills do not like to leave loose ends and will often have the same attorney execute both a fraudulent deed accompanied by a fraudulent will.

Is it really that easy to steal a house?

Yes. Unfortunately, as the leading NY estate law firm handling these highly complex and convoluted cases we can tell you it happens everyday. In Mr. Thomas’s case, the stranger simply used a fake driver’s license and a blank deed they purchased at Staples to convey the property to themselves. In legal terms we call this a forgery and the transferee will go to jail for a long period of time when caught.

How do you unsteal a house?

Our NY probate lawyers have successfully handled a great number of these nasty cases but it is not easy. These cases often take several years and hundreds of hours of litigation to bring the perpetrator’s to justice and redeem the properties to their rightful owners. Our NY estate lawyers just finished up a case where the deed was fraudulently conveyed in 2005 to a conniving niece from her senile aunt. The niece knew the multifamily property was very valuable and took advantage of her aunt’s advanced Alzheimer’s.

The main problem in these cases is no one realizes the properties have been transferred until it is too late, in this case nearly 4 years. Once our firm caught up with the culpable party, after years of litigation we were able to wrestle the property back to her aunt’s estate in a turnover proceeding.

Our firm is one of the few firms in NY who successfully handle these difficult turnover proceedings. Often times there are 5 ways to win these cases and 100 different ways to lose them. When you go to court on these complex cases you want the very best probate lawyers in NY.

If you feel like you or someone you know has been the victim of a fraudulent deed transfer or will, call The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation. Remember these cases are extremely time sensitive.

If you would like to know more about these cases feel free to follow our firm on Twitter atNYEstate_Law.

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