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How do I prove that a will has been forged?

View profile for Philippa  Rowley
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It is not uncommon for family members to claim a Will has been forged, particularly where the provisions of that Will are less favourable than expected. However, unsupported suspicions will not be enough to persuade a court that a Will is a forgery.

The consequences of successfully proving a Will has been forged are wide-reaching. If the Deceased has a previous Will which has been validly executed, the estate will revert to be distributed in accordance with the terms of this previous Will. If they do not, the intestacy rules will apply.

In addition, a party who is considered to have forged a Will by the civil courts, could be pursued in the criminal courts.

By way of example, in the case of Face – v – Cunningham [2020], the deceased’s daughter Rebecca sought to propound a Will allegedly made by her father. It was claimed the original of this Will had been lost however Rebecca claimed she had found a photocopy. Unsurprisingly, the photocopied Will left the majority of her father’s estate to Rebecca whilst disinheriting her siblings.

When forgery is alleged it is the responsibility of the person trying to prove the validity of the Will to provide sufficient evidence to the court. Rebecca sought to rely on evidence from the two individuals who purportedly witnessed the execution of the Will however the judge was not persuaded. On the other hand, Rebecca’s siblings relied heavily on the diary entries their father made almost every day. These diary entries did not mention making a new Will. In addition the language used in the Will was inconsistent with the Deceased’s character.

The court in the case of Face – v – Cunningham held that the Will propounded by Rebecca was a forgery, they rejected the evidence of her witnesses and the judge said the terms of the Will were “utterly incredible”. Rebecca’s claim that she had found her father’s last will was totally without merit and Mr Face died without making a Will.

The judge also directed that the transcript of the judgement be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for them to decide whether criminal charges should be bought.

Should you require any advice on the joint ownership of property and how these rules affect a deceased’s estate please get in touch with one of our team. Please email Philippa Rowley or call our Contested Probate team on 0800 118 1500 to find out how we can help you. Or alternatively click here for more information.