Will Fraud – Disputes over Wills

Fraudulent will cases

At WillClaim we are unfortunately receiving increasing volumes of suspected will cases where fraud may have played a part

Fraud wills typically arise from one of the following scenarios:-

  • The original will may have been purposefully destroyed or altered
  • The signature on the will does not match or is not of the Testator – the individual making the will
  • Instances where the will was not actually signed in the presence of both witnesses
  • When the Deceased was tricked into signing a document not knowing that it was a will

Identifying the Burden of proof in a Fraudulent will case

Proving will fraud can be very complex and very much like proving cases where Undue pressure has been exerted, expert opinion may be required. Expert opinion may call on evidence from professional calligraphers (to prove alteration or mismatched signatures) as this may support the allegation of fraud. This expert opinion is needed because unless compelling evidence can be found to support a will fraud allegation the fact that (on paper) a will has been technically witnessed, signed and dated it is therefore valid unless proven otherwise.

How common are fraudulent wills common?

The number of will frauds is regrettably growing and at WillClaim we regularly represent clients who have been the victims of fraudulent wills. No case is alike but there are some general similarities or indicators of cases of will fraud include:-

  • The signature on the will does not match that of the Testator or has deliberately been altered
  • The original will is deliberately destroyed
  • The will was not signed in front of both witnesses
  • Will alteration by the deceased whilst in hospital or while unwell
  • The will was signed by the deceased without their knowledge that they were signing a will
  • The validity of a DIY will that was poorly executed
  • Was the will legally signed with both witnessing parties present
  • Where the deceased was largely dependant upon a carer in the run up to their death
  • The nature of a new will changes dramatically in nature (an example being that the will previously benefited a family member but now benefits a relative newcomer such as a carer)
  • Power of attorney was granted prior to death and the deceased’s assets were spent or part-spent
  • Where a solicitor or legal firm was not used to write the will and a DIY or online will was used
  • Instances where the witnesses are friends of the nominated beneficiary

If you are concerned about the validity of a will or believe that you have been impacted by will fraud please call WillClaim on 020 3322 5103.