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Fraudulent Wills and Forged Wills

Partner and Head of Private Wealth Disputes, Roman Kubiak, looks at how you can contest a will when fraud or forgery is suspected. This video sheds light on these case, providing notable examples and highlighting the role of expert evidence.

Deception and Fraud

If any part of a will was obtained through fraud it may be possible to set it aside. One common scenario involves deceiving an individual into making a gift in their will to someone falsely represented. In Wilkinson v Joughin (1866) LR 2 Eq 319 serves as an illustrative example where a woman, aware that her husband was alive, married another man without disclosing this fact. The second husband made a will leaving her a gift, but the court set it aside on grounds of fraud.

 

Forgery and Compliance with Formalities

A will can be contested if any part of it is found to be forged. In the context of wills, forgery, being a form of fraud, typically  involves non-compliance with the strict formalities outlined in section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. This includes the requirement for the will to be in writing and signed by the testator and two witnesses. If any of these signatures are proven to be forged, the entire will may be set aside.

 

Evidence of Fraud or Forgery

Due to the gravity of forgery allegations, courts demand substantial and compelling evidence. In 2013 case of Haider v Syed [2013] EWHC 4079 (Ch) the court deliberated on the authenticity of a purported will’s signature. The judge concluded it was a forgery, emphasising the importance of robust evidence.

 

Expert Evidence in Forgery Cases

In forgery cases, expert evidence often plays a crucial role. Forensic document examiners, often with scientific training and law enforcement backgrounds, scrutinise wills and signatures for authenticity. In the Haider v Syed [2013] EWHC 4079 (Ch) case, the court relied on both a forensic document examiner and a graphologist. Forensic document examiners are generally preferred by the courts due to their scientific training while graphologists focus on character traits inferred from handwriting. The judge in Haider v Syed [2013] EWHC 4079 (Ch) criticised graphology as “pseudoscience”.

 

Conclusion

Contesting a will based on fraud or forgery requires a close examination and presentation of the key evidence. Understanding the nuances of these cases, including the reliance on expert testimony, is essential.

If you have concerns over a will or are facing a will dispute contact us to speak to one of our lawyers.


Key contact

Roman Kubiak is a partner and head of the market leading Contested Wills, Trusts and Estates team.

He advises across the whole spectrum of private wealth disputes, with a particular focus on high value, complex and cross-border disputes including: trust disputes, breach of trust claims and applications to remove trustees; will disputes, particularly those with an international element; claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; and claims for equitable relief under proprietary estoppel, constructive trusts and resulting trusts.

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