Fraud and forgery

It is possible to challenge a will on the grounds of fraud or forgery. However, these are serious allegations to make. For this reason, the burden of proof on the person making such allegations is high.

As with any will challenge, the key witness, being the person said to have made the will, is not there to give evidence, which makes such cases difficult to prove. If there is some suspicion of dishonesty with regards to a will, relying on other grounds such as a lack of knowledge and approval, may lead to a more favourable outcome without the high evidential burden. With our expertise, we can advise you on the merits of success of the various grounds of challenge available to you.

If there has been forgery of a will, it may be that the will has been forged in its entirety. Alternatively, it may be that only the testator’s signature has been forged onto a will that the testator created but chose not to sign.

Suspicions of a forged will may arise if:

  • The witnesses to the will cannot be traced or have died
  • The signature on the will does not look the same as other examples of the testator’s usual signature
  • The witnesses to the will are close to the major beneficiary and not the testator
  • The terms of the will are unexpected and not in keeping with previous wills
  • The will was said to be made just before death and names new beneficiaries

Often a handwriting expert is required to compare the writing or signature on the will to that of the testator. This requires sufficient evidence of the testator’s handwriting and signature which can be difficult where there has been a long time since death or due to the increased use of technology. Statements from the witnesses to the will are also likely to be needed to explain the circumstances surrounding the execution (signing) of the will.

Another type of fraud is that of fraudulent calumny, which is similar to undue influence.

A successful challenge to a will on the grounds of fraud or forgery will invalidate the will. The estate will be distributed in accordance with the previous will of the testator (if there is one) unless that is also proved to be invalid. If there is no previous will, the intestacy rules will apply in England and Wales. There is no time limit to contest a fraudulent will. However, you should pursue matters without delay.

If you have concerns about a forged or fraudulent will, or are defending a challenge to a will, please contact our specialist team.