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How do I fight fraud and forgery when challenging a Will?

Despite the similarity of the two words, they are actually very different terms when it comes to making a legal case for invalidating a Will in NSW. If you suspect there is something unusual or suspicious about the provisions in your loved one’s Will, read on to see whether fraud or forgery may be at play and discover how you can challenge the validity of the document.

What is Will fraud?
Will fraud occurs when the testator is tricked into signing a Will. Examples of fraud include:

  • Amending the Will with provisions that favour one beneficiary over another.
  • Suppressing material facts from the Will.
  • Adding deliberately false and inflammatory statements.

Fraud can occur if the Will-maker is temporarily incapable of making rational decisions – on medication, for example – or if they are presented with another similar-looking document.

What is Will forgery?
Forgery differs from fraud in that the deceased will likely not have been involved in creating or signing their Will. Normally, cases of Will forgery can be broken down into two categories; issues with the document itself or suspicion around the signatures and witnesses.

There are a number of circumstances that could be cause for suspicion within both counts of forgery, including these examples in the former:

  • If the Will is poorly constructed with incorrect facts or missing details about family members and other loved ones.
  • If one of the beneficiaries name in the Will seems unlikely due to lack of relationship prior to the Will-maker’s death.
  • On the occasion the Will is discovered by an unlikely person in an unlikely place.

Here are some examples that may be suspicious in the event of the latter:

  • If the Will is signed by the deceased but has no evidence of any formal witnesses being present.
  • If the signature on the Will is missing or doesn’t match with records of the Will-maker’s signature on other documents.
  • Whether a beneficiary was present in both the construction and witnessing of the Will.

How do I fight Will fraud and forgery?
Both claims are notoriously difficult to prove in court as they require an intimate understanding of the Will construction process and sometimes the input of outside expertise, such as a specialist in analysing handwriting to check for evidence of forged signatures.

If you think your loved one’s estate has been meddled with, you should seek the advice of Will & Estate solicitors, to ensure there is no foul play involved. For more information, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners today.

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Contesting Wills
 — Gerard Malouf & Partners

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