Inheritance disputes can be a challenging time for everyone involved, but they rarely result in criminal charges.
This is not the case for a British woman who now faces prison time after being found guilty of forging her dead lover’s will.
The deceased committed suicide, aged 53, at her home in 2008, but failed to update his will beforehand. As such, the former policeman’s estranged wife was due to be granted probate and receive his £180,000 (AU$327,000) estate.
According to the Express & Echo, the decedent’s lover made a counterfeit will that she claimed to have found in her dead partner’s fishing jacket. The document left the estate, which included a house, a boat and a car, to her.
However, the deceased’s estranged wife, who he had been with for 17 years before leaving her for his lover, became suspicious and decided to contest the will.
The story unravels
Two of the deceased’s fishing buddies were coerced into pretending they had witnessed the signing of the document while on a trip to Devon in the months before his death.
The courts heard that the pair felt sorry for the partner, as they believed the deceased had intended to leave his estate to her. They both signed legally binding documents to support their claims of witnessing the signing.
Despite this, the estranged wife continued to investigate and it was eventually discovered that the signature on the document was a forgery. The two witnesses were also found to have taken money out of a cash machine in separate locations on the day they were supposed to be fishing with the deceased.
The pair claimed they had been forced into the situation by the lover and eventually admitted conspiracy to create a false document. The deceased’s partner denied the same charge, as well as allegations of fraud and perverting the course of justice, but was found guilty of all three.
Contesting a will in NSW
While cases such as the above are uncommon, challenging the validity of a will in NSW is an option.
Even if the document isn’t a forgery, there are various circumstances that could force the courts to discount the will. For example, if the deceased was suffering from mental or physical incapacity when writing the document. There may also be reason to believe the individual was forced into writing it.
If you are worried that a loved one’s will isn’t valid or you have any other questions about estate planning processes, please get in touch with a no-win, no-fee contesting wills lawyer as soon as possible.