What should I do if I think a will has been forged?20 Jul 2022 | Suzanna Baker
If the contents of a will come as a surprise, then one of the things to check is whether the will was made by the deceased and is valid. Forgery is difficult to prove, but a successful claim will result in the forgery being set aside in favour of a previous, genuine will.
What is a forged will?
A forged will is a document which has been created or changed without the knowledge or permission of the person who made the will. It might involve changing an existing will to reflect different wishes or creating a new one. The forger may use a signature that looks like it belongs to the person making the will, but in reality, it is not real.
How do I tell if a will has been forged?
Many forgeries are difficult to spot as the forger may have taken great care in making the document look genuine. In some cases, forensic handwriting experts are needed to detect whether a will is real. However, some signs can indicate that the will might have been fraudulently created or tampered with. These include:
- The signature on the will doesn’t match other known signatures of the deceased
- The handwriting is noticeably different from the person’s usual handwriting
- The will benefits certain people and it would be out of character for the deceased to provide for them
- The provisions are significantly different from those in a previous will
- The will was found unexpectedly after the person’s death and no one knew it existed
- You cannot contact the witnesses to check whether the will was properly executed or the witness signatures are suspected to be forged.
What do I do if I think a will has been forged?
If you suspect a will has been forged, acting quickly and speaking to a solicitor is important. The solicitor can investigate whether the will is genuine and what action should be taken. This may include appointing a handwriting expert who is scientifically trained to give an opinion on whether the signature is valid. For example, they can identify whether the signature is traced or freehand, when it was added to the document, or whether it has been cut and pasted.
What are the consequences of having a forged will?
Forgery is grounds for contesting a will. If sufficient evidence proves that the will is forged, then the will cannot be deemed valid. If there’s a previous version of the will, this will be upheld. If there is no will, the deceased will be treated as if they died intestate, and the law of intestacy will distribute their estate.
How do I prevent forgery when making a will?
The best way to protect against forgeries is to ensure your will is legally binding and up-to-date. You should use a qualified solicitor who can advise on making your will safe and valid. All wills must be signed by the will-maker in front of two witnesses – three people should be in the room at the time of signing. This is so that witnesses can be called on to verify that they watched the will-maker make their signature.
You can arrange for the will to be signed and witnessed at your solicitor’s office for additional peace of mind.
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