When a loved one dies, the court may appoint an attorney to handle the matters of the deceased's estate. The family of the deceased may know little of the process of probate and rely on the attorney to handle matters in an ethical and forthright manner. Allegations of a breach of this fiduciary duty can lead to serious charges, and someone accused of mishandling estate assets may seek a strong federal criminal defense.
One example of this occurred recently when a New York federal grand jury indicted a court-appointed estate administrator for embezzlement. The attorney was entrusted with the duties of collecting the assets of the deceased and distributing them to the deceased's son, the only beneficiary. Most of the multi-million-dollar estate was held by the state comptroller as abandoned property. Estate administrators often use recovery services in these cases.
The attorney is accused of forming such a recovery service with a relative specifically for use with this estate and charging the estate the maximum allowable fee of 15 percent of the value of the recovered property. Additionally, authorities say the man lied to a postal inspector who inquired about the use of this recovery service. The attorney supposedly said he had used the service many times in the past and that he was only charging the estate a 5 percent fee.
As part of the embezzlement case, the lawyer now faces charges that include conspiracy, mail fraud and making a false statement. A conviction for these charges can result in up to 30 years in prison. With so much at stake, anyone in New York accused of similar offenses would do well to seek the assistance of a federal criminal defense attorney.