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Fraudulent wills - FAQs

1. What is a fraudulent will?

Fraud can best be described as the deliberate or intentional use of misrepresentation, deception or dishonesty to deprive, in order to make a gain or achieve an advantage for someone or something or to disadvantage or cause loss (usually financial) to another person.

If the true intentions of the testator are not contained within their will, it may be possible to challenge the will on the grounds of fraud.

There are many ways in which a will can be fraudulent. For example:

• Where the deceased's signature on the will has been forged;
• Where the beneficiaries have made false representations to influence the testator to make a will in certain terms (this is known as fraudulent calumny);
• Where the last will has been deliberately destroyed;
• Where the will’s content has been changed without the knowledge or consent of the testator;
• Where the deceased was tricked into signing a document not knowing that it was a will

2. How do you prove a will is fraudulent?

It is for the person contesting the will to prove it is invalid because it is fraudulent.  

Contesting a will on the basis of fraud is difficult, not least because one of the key witnesses (the deceased) is not alive to give evidence, but also because an allegation of fraud is a very serious one to make and as such the burden of proof is harder to discharge.  It is therefore very important to seek an assessment of the merits of the claim as soon as possible.

There are no time limits for contesting a fraudulent will but you should not delay in seeking legal advice as soon as possible as steps may need to be taken urgently to protect the assets in the estate.

3. What will happen if a will is proven to be fraudulent?

If a will is found to be fraudulent, it will be declared invalid. If the testator had an earlier valid will, then the estate will be distributed in accordance with that will. If there is no an earlier valid will, the estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules.

4. Is there a time limit for contesting a will on the grounds of fraud?

There are no time limits for contesting a fraudulent will but you should not delay in seeking legal advice as soon as possible as steps may need to be taken urgently to protect the assets in the estate.

If you would like advice on fraudulent wills, or indeed on any other inheritance or trust dispute, please contact our Disputed Wills and Trusts Team on freephone 0800 0931336, or by email willdisputes@ashfords.co.uk for a free, no obligation chat to see how we can help you.

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