Article written by Simona Morina, Contested Probate Solicitor
Challenging a Will based on suspected forgery can present significant challenges, as it requires a comprehensive examination of both the Will itself and the circumstances surrounding its creation.
To ensure its validity, a Will must adhere to specific requirements:
- The Will must be in writing and should provide a clear record of the testator’s intentions.
- The testator must be 18 or over.
- The Will should be signed by the testator.
- The Will should be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must be independent adults over the age of 18. The witnesses must also sign the Will in the testator’s presence.
- The testator must have the mental capacity to understand the nature of their actions, the extent of their property, and the implications of their decisions. They should sign the Will voluntarily and not be subject to any undue influence or coercion.
So, what is a forged Will?
A forged will is one that has been altered or manipulated with the intention of deceiving the distribution of assets. Forgery can include the unauthorised signing, changing or manipulation of the Will.
How can I prove a Will has been forged?
Proving a Will has been forged can be a challenging exercise that will require evidence. Approaches to establishing a forged or altered Will can include:
- Securing a report from a qualified expert to compare the signature on the Will with authentic samples of the testator’s and/or witnesses’ signatures. This can help to detect any inconsistencies or deviations. A handwriting expert can offer insights into the likelihood of forgery.
- Gathering evidence from witnesses who can verify the testator’s mental state and the circumstances surrounding the alleged Will signing, and whether they can provide any other evidence which would suggest that the Will was not signed in the manner stated in the Will.
If you are successful in proving a Will has been forged, there are potentially significant implications. This can include:
- The Will being declared invalid and the distribution of assets reverting to those contained within a previously valid Will or if there is no previous Will the estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules.
- Those responsible for forging or altering the Will facing legal consequences, including potential criminal charges for fraud and forgery.
What should I do if I suspect a Will has been forged?
Should you have concerns about the authenticity of a Will, we would advise you to consult with a solicitor who can assess the potential merit of your case. A solicitor can support you in collecting appropriate evidence in the form of relevant documents, signatures, and information that could support your claim.