Court Rejects Claim that Will was Forged: Case Study

9 Jun 2023 | Katie de Swarte
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Court Rejects Claim of Forged Will

The court has rejected a claim that a will was forged, even though its origins could not be identified, it contained unusual clauses indicative of foreign law – and there were “suspicious” features.

Experienced Will Dispute Solicitors

The contested probate solicitors at Osbornes Law are experienced in advising and representing parties involved in will disputes, including those involving cross-border issues.

Case Study: Selvarajah v Selvarajah

Background of the Case

The testator, Selvarajah Sellathurai, made a will in August 2016 and died in September leaving behind his wife and four adult children. He was a wealthy businessman and philanthropist who originated from Sri Lanka and founded a Hindu temple in London.

His wife was the sole beneficiary and grant of probate was issued to the executors (two of the children). However, one of the daughters claimed the will was a forgery. She alleged that her siblings had caused the will to be drawn up and executed and that their late father’s signature was forged.

The judge’s task was particularly challenging: there was no evidence as to how the will was created; there was no will file with solicitors and no account or fee for it; and no instructions as to its execution. If it was homemade, there was no digital footprint available.

Unusual clauses

A further issue was the presence of certain clauses in the will which were unusual or unnecessary in the jurisdiction of England and Wales. The judge’s opinion was that the will was created from a precedent drafted by someone who was unfamiliar with English law.

However, this did not invalidate or undermine the will in and of itself – only if the will was defective would it be invalid.

No forgery

The will was valid and rational, notwithstanding the underlying unknowns surrounding its creation. The judge found on the facts that Mr Sellathurai had intended to make a will at some point (and not changed his mind).

The evidence given by the witnesses to the will – two old school friends of one of the defendants – was conclusive. Mr Sellathurai asked if they were free and could help him with the signing of his will; they saw him take up the will and sign it; and they then both signed it. Particular weight was given to the fact that the witnesses were independent professional women, separated both financially and geographically from the family.

Similarly, one of the defendants was a solicitor and would face severe professional consequences had she really been involved in forgery and lying on oath. It was hard to believe she would take such a risk.

Conversely, little or no weight was given to the claimant’s evidence, except where independently corroborated. The judge decided the claim was driven by the claimant’s suspicions and at times wild allegations without any evidence.

Key takeaway

Had the will been professionally drawn up, by solicitors within this jurisdiction, this dispute would have been far less likely to have reached the courts. The ruling is also a timely reminder to avoid going down the litigation route unless you have strong, conclusive evidence to support your case.

How Osbornes Law can help

For expert advice, if you have any concerns about the validity of a will, contact the specialist contested wills lawyers at Osbornes Law:

  • Fill in our online enquiry form; or
  • Call us on 020 7485 8811

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