Failing to make a professionally drafted will can, in extreme cases, leave your loved ones with a sense of injustice so great that they resort to forgery. As a High Court case showed, however, such behaviour is never acceptable and judges are well equipped to detect it. Charlotte Ledson looks at the case.
The case concerned a man who lived for about 30 years with a partner whom he never married. Following his death, a will was produced that purported to bequeath all his personal possessions and the contents of their home to his partner. After expenses, the residue of his estate was left to their daughter. However, the validity of the will was challenged by another of his children from another relationship.
The will was written on a blank pro-forma document. The partner’s son said that he had filled it in on the man’s instructions before the latter signed it. The will was witnessed by the son and, purportedly, by his then wife. Following the breakdown of their marriage, however, the wife asserted that the will was a forgery created after the man’s death and that both his signature and her own had been forged. Ruling on the matter, the Court was satisfied that it was indeed a case of forgery and that the son and daughter were both parties to the creation of the bogus document. The partner also well knew that the will had been forged.
The Court noted that, as the man had died without making a valid will, the rules of intestacy meant that his unmarried partner would receive nothing. It had little doubt that the son and daughter felt they were doing the right thing in creating a will that avoided that result and that they believed reflected the man’s wishes.
However, the Court emphasised that the law lays down strict formalities as to how property is to be disposed of on death and it is not for anyone after a deceased’s death to try and put in place documents which will give effect to what they think the deceased’s intentions would have been. A professionally drafted, up-to-date will can help to prevent contentious situations like this from arising.