Forged Wills

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    Forgery of Wills or the signatures on them has often led to high media interest or they are afforded it by being a part of a much bigger story.

    Take the case of Dr. Harold Shipman who was charged with forging an elderly woman’s Will during the investigation in which he denied murdering her.

    Forgery of a signature on a Will has to be proved on a balance of probabilities, a much lower standard than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

    However discussions in various cases have found that the burden is a heavy one to discharge because it is such a serious allegation (see for example Re H (minors) [1996]). Much of the evidential proof will rest with the handwriting expert although this can also prove to be inconclusive.

    The more recent case of Supple v Pender [2007] illustrates an unsatisfactory result in a forged Will case. The judge looked at all the evidence before taking into account the handwriting expert’s view which supported his own conclusion that the Will was a forgery. His decision was influenced by the fact that one of the major beneficiaries under the disputed Will was a very unreliable witness. Although rejecting probate for the Will he did not make any findings as to how the forgery came into existence.

    In 2004 the brother of a pensioner proved that his sister’s 1998 Will was forged by her new husband who, under the Will, was to inherit her entire estate. Again a handwriting expert declared that the signature was a fake and that it was her new husband who had forged it.

    Despite this, as she had now died intestate, he still inherited the majority of her estate. Despite the problems of forgers still inheriting there are criminal implications for the forgers. In 2006 a clairvoyant was jailed for 18 months after conning a pensioner out of £6500 by claiming that her dead husband had left him the money in a Will, which he also cleverly reported after ’speaking’ to the deceased, had been ‘lost’ behind a grandfather clock.

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    Matt Walkden Will Writer

    About Matt Walkden

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