There are a number of grounds for contesting a will, this article talks about contesting a forged will.

If it can be proved that a will in its entirety has been forged or the person allegedly making the will (“the testator”) signature has been forged, this will result in the will being invalid.  

Evidence required to prove forgery

When disputing a will, the standard of proof required is normally on the balance of probabilities, i.e. if you can prove your case 50.1% you will win the case. However, as forgery is a form of fraud, a higher level of proof will be required and therefore such an action should not be commenced without strong evidence.

From the outset, when challenging a will based upon forgery, it will often be necessary to instruct a handwriting expert to determine whether the testator’s signature is genuine. In order to produce such a report, handwriting experts often require a considerable number of signatures with which to compare the signature on the contested will (normally in the region of 10-20 signatures). Handwriting experts also request that the original signature samples are available for inspection.

Handwriting expert

If the handwriting expert produces a report in which their conclusions are inconclusive, it is unlikely that a claim for forgery will succeed. Even in cases where a handwriting expert has confirmed that there are good grounds to propose forgery has been committed, if there is other factual evidence to contradict this finding, a court may not find that forgery has occurred. Accordingly, at the outset, if you wish to contest a will, witness statements should be obtained from any relevant witnesses regarding the surrounding circumstances, in addition to a handwriting expert being instructed. 

Implications

If the court finds that a will is a forgery or the testator’s signature is a forgery, the will will be invalid. Where a will is successfully disputed and the court confirms the will is invalid, if there is no earlier valid will, then the testator’s estate will be distributed according to the Intestacy Rules. 

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About the author

Martin Oliver Partner

Martin specialises in inheritance disputes such as contesting a will and litigation involving wills and trusts. "He has a very good legal brain, an eye for detail and a tactical sixth sense ... "