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  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  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  EWHC 4079 (Ch) criticised graphology as “pseudoscience”.
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.