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Will Forgeries on the Rise
The recent and highly publicised trial of carers, Lynda and Wayne Rickard, reflects a growing number of cases coming before the courts relating to will forgeries. Lynda and Wayne had attempted to persuade the court that the wills of Joy Sootheran and Anthony Sootheran were genuine in order to inherit £750,000 from Joy’s estate and in excess of £1,000,000 from Anthony’s estate. The validity of the wills were successfully challenged by Anthony’s daughter.
Lynda and Wayne were subsequently found guilty at Reading Crown Court in other proceedings brought by the CPS for forging the wills and for causing/allowing the death of Anthony (among other offences). Lynda was sentenced to 4 years for the forgery of the wills whilst Wayne was sentenced to 21 months (taking into account other instances of fraud). They also received sentences for the other offences they were found guilty of.
Challenging a will on the basis of forgery
There has been a recent willingness of the courts to say that, where forgery is alleged, the people who wish the will to stand must prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the will was validly created.
The court will take into account all relevant evidence, which may include statements from anyone who was present when the will was signed, statements from third parties about what the deceased had told them about his/her will and the deceased’s relationship with the beneficiaries, relevant documentary evidence and expert evidence such the opinion of handwriting experts.
When considering the credibility of witnesses, the court will consider possible motives for lying and whether their demeanour makes them a credible or unreliable witness. Expert evidence will be considered when balancing all of the other evidence as a whole and may not be conclusive.
Is forgery the same as fraud?
No. A will is considered as made by fraud where a person poisons the mind of the person making the will, by making dishonest statements about the character of a person who would otherwise be a natural beneficiary. The person committing the fraud must make the statements knowing they are false or not caring whether they are true or false, with the intention of making a person change their will.
Do you need advice about challenging a will?
At Taylor Fordyce, we understand just how upsetting and frustrating it is to realise that a loved one’s Will does not appear to reflect their true wishes. When you are grieving, the idea of also making a legal claim can feel overwhelming.
Our team of disputed Wills solicitors are here to support you through this difficult time. We can help you investigate the situation and provide clear, practical advice about your options. Our goal is to help people minimise stress and costs while still achieving a positive outcome.