The notion of a fraudulent will might sound like a work of fiction to most people, but it can occur. A forged will can make it difficult for the executor of an estate to carry out his or her duties. It can also lead to a court battle between potential heirs to the estate. If you are the executor and are unsure whether or not the will is forged, here is what you need to know.
What Are the Signs of a Forged Will?
There are several clues that you could look for in the will and its execution to determine whether or not it is fraudulent. For instance, if the will was abruptly changed within a short period of time before the will maker died, it is possible the will is fraudulent.
Another possible sign could be found in how the estate's assets are doled out. For instance, if the will overwhelmingly favors one person over other family members and friends, there could be cause for concern. Suspicion is also warranted if the will seems to benefit advisers or health care workers more so than family and friends.
In addition to these signs, a will that has been changed multiple times over the past year should be closely examined.
What Can You Do?
As the executor of the estate, you have to ensure that the wishes laid out in the will by the deceased are followed. However, if you suspect the will is fraudulent, you need to take action to determine whether or not the document is real before settling the estate.
One method of doing this is to hire a handwriting expert to analyze the signature on the will and compare it against a known signature of the deceased. If the expert believes the signatures differ, you can file a petition with the probate court to reassess the distribution of the estate's assets.
To prove your case in court, you will need more than the expert's testimony. Evidence, such as previous copies of wills, can help build your case that the will was fraudulent. If you suspect the will was created at a time when the deceased was mentally incapable of making decisions, ask the court for a subpoena for the deceased's medical records.
The best way to ensure the authenticity of the will is to work with a probate attorney from a law firm such as Bayer Jerger & Underwood. He or she can help you identify other ways to prove whether or not it is real and help you take action if it is not.Share