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Unexpected Inheritance – Too Good to Be True? (Part 1)

        In this week’s post I will share with you a letter a client received that he forwarded to me.  Our client – we’ll refer to him as John Smith (not his real name) – received a letter from the account manager at a foreign branch of an international bank.   John lives in New Jersey.

       The letter explains that the branch manager is writing concerning one of his deceased customers who happens to have the same last name – we’ll call him Donald Smith.  The account manager tells us that Donald Smith died in a horrific car accident and left an account with no beneficiary upon death.  We are also told that Donald died intestate.  He did not have a Last Will and Testament.  Oh, yes and one more key fact – Donald Smith had $40 million in his account when he died.

       Our account manager continues to explain that he found John Smith’s contact information while searching for Donald Smith’s next of kin or someone with the same last name.  For the past 3 years the bank has tried unsuccessfully to locate any next of kin.  The letter continues to inform us that bank laws state that accounts remaining dormant for 3 years with no activity revert to the government treasury as unclaimed.

       The account manager concludes his letter with a proposal.  He would like to present John Smith as the next of kin to claim the $40 million in the account.  The letter tells John that “since [Donald] is from your country and you both share the same last name, it easy for you to become his official next of kin”.

       The letter concludes with an offer.  The manager will assist with the process to obtain this money and in return would split the account balance 50/50 with John.  He assures that everything will be handled legally in accordance with inheritance claim procedures but it is important that John keep this arrangement confidential and email his private email address and not contact him at the bank.

       If John Smith has ever had any experience with estate administration in the past he most likely will quickly recognize this letter as a fraud.  For those who have no knowledge of the estate administration process, however, some of the statements in the letter sound almost reasonable and/or plausible.  Next week I’ll explain why this tale is utter nonsense and what John would likely “gain” from pursuing the account manager’s offer.