A will shall be invalid if it can be proved that it is fraudulent. Fraud is defined in criminal law as being "an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual".
Typically, fraudulent wills arise in the following circumstances:
- Where the deceased's signature on the will has been forged.
- Where the will was not actually signed in the presence of both witnesses.
- Where the last will has been deliberately destroyed.
- Where the deceased was tricked into signing a document not knowing that it was a will.
- Where false information was given to the deceased in order to persuade him/her to make a will in certain terms (fraudulent calumny).
The very nature of such cases, given the higher burden of proof and usually the lack of compelling evidence available (given that the best witness of the case, the deceased, is no longer able to give evidence) means that this type of claim can be very difficult to prove.
Fraud is a very serious allegation which should not be raised without real evidence to support it. A caveat should first of all be lodged at the Probate Registry to avoid the will being admitted to probate so that extensive enquiries can be carried out, such as instructing a handwriting expert and examining potential witnesses. We recommend that you seek legal assistance as soon as possible if you are considering such a claim.
If you would like advice on challenging a will, or indeed on any other inheritance or trust dispute, please contact our Disputed Wills, Trusts and Estates Team by telephone on +44 (0)1884 203 018 or FREEPHONE 0800 0931336 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.