The number of Wills that are challenged, based on fraud or forgery is increasing – although not great in number. However, this trend does underline the need to ensure that Wills are both up to date and that an individual’s wishes, relating to the Will, are made known to close family and friends.
However, should you be in the unfortunate position that you feel a Will has been tampered with and that the wishes of the person whom you knew and whose Will it is, are strongly at odds with what’s reflected in their Will, there is a course of action that you can take – although it can be a rather difficult path.
First, we need to determine the difference between a fraudulent and a forged Will. A forged Will is a document which is not genuine. However, a fraudulent Will is a genuine document, but one which does not truly reflect the expressed wishes of the testator.
Examples of a fraudulent Will includes:
- Where the Will was not actually signed in the presence of two or more witnesses – either in person or online via a vehicle such as ‘Zoom’ or ‘Microsoft Teams.’
- Where the testator was tricked into signing a document not knowing or understanding that it was a Will.
- Where false representation(s) is / were made to the testator to persuade the testator to make a Will in certain terms.
- Where the last Will was deliberately destroyed.
Furthermore, Under Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 a testator needed to have been fully aware of the Will, the Wills contents and to have fully understood the Wills provisions.
Contesting a Will, based on fraud or forgery, is usually by those who claim to have been the victim of a conspiracy, which has, as a result, deprived them of the inheritance they had expected to receive.
Fraud and forgery is a criminal offence and a criminal case must be dealt with prior to any probate activity taking place. If any criminal charges result in a conviction, probate can be refused in respect of a Will that has been obtained by fraud or forgery.
If you suspect a Will to be fraudulent or a forgery you need to do the following:
- Get in touch with a legal expert
A legal expert will tell you whether you have a good case or not and if you have, the best way to move forwards.
- Gather Evidence
This is really important, since proving a Will to be fraudulent is incredibly difficult. You will require evidence that gives you at least a 50% chance of winning and this is not an easy thing to achieve.
A forged signature is often a sure-fire sign of ‘wrong-doing,’ but requires the skill and evidence of a handwriting expert. The expert will be required to compare at least 10 documents carrying the testators signature
- Witness Reports
In most cases, even the evidence of the handwriting expert will not be enough! You will need to get in touch with all the people who were closely involved with the deceased to provide a fuller insight into the individual and possibly their wishes and thoughts with regards to you, other family members and possibly their wishes with regards to who they would have liked to benefit from the various aspects of their estate.
- Seek Mediation
This should always be your first step before going to court. Ideally both parties should be seeking to reach some kind of resolution ……and its far cheaper and much less stressful than a court case!
- Pursue a Legal Action
This should be very much a last case resort and not undertaken lightly since – as already stated, a fraudulent Will is very difficult to prove and your chances of winning, even with all the afore mentioned evidence, is slim.
To ensure your Will is written correctly and adheres to all the UK Will related guidelines, regulations and laws, get in touch with mylastwill.co.uk