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Fraud Under the Probate Code

Fraud under the probate code is a legal claim in Missouri codified in Section 472.013 RSMo. It states as follows: 

Whenever fraud has been perpetrated in connection with any proceeding or in any statement filed under this code, or if fraud is used to avoid or circumvent the provisions or purposes of this code,any person injured thereby may obtain appropriate relief against the perpetrator of the fraud or restitution from any person, other than a bona fide purchaser, benefiting from the fraud, whether innocent or not. Any proceeding must be commenced within two years after the discovery of the fraud, but no proceeding may be brought against one not a perpetrator of the fraud later than ten years after the time of commission of the fraud. This section has no bearing on remedies relating to fraud practiced on a decedent during his lifetime which affects the succession of his estate.

Compared to will contests, trust contests, breach of fiduciary lawsuits, discovery of assets proceedings and other “common” probate claims, fraud under the probate code claims are relatively rare. Accordingly, there is a somewhat scarce supply of cases in Missouri outlining what it precisely means to “avoid or circumvent the provisions or purposes of [the Probate] code.” Similarly, although a critical section of the statute states that the fraud must be “perpetrated in connection with any proceeding or in any statement filed under [the probate] code,” the language is unclear who can assert the claim. There is a reference to “any person injured thereby.” Courts have interpreted this phrase as not being limited to any type of person (e.g. an heir, legatee, creditor). Indeed, anyone injured by the fraud may pursue a fraud under the probate claim. Examples include, without limitations, false statements of account in estate administration matters, false wills, fraudulent inventories, etc. For this reason, the claim is quite broad. What’s more, the fraud, whether actual or constructive based on a breach of fiduciary duty, must cause the injury. For instance, a breach of fiduciary duty as a personal representative of a decedent’s estate has been found to constitute constructive fraud under Section 472.013, RSMo. Matter of Estate of Snyder, 880 S.W.2d 596, 597 (Mo. Ct. App. 1994). 

Contact with questions relating to probate litigation.