Forged Will ‘found’ in Doritos packet

4 October, 2017

It is challenging to successfully contest a Will based on fraud or forgery however, in some cases, the evidence is sufficient for a judge to declare a Will invalid on these grounds.

In 2013 Marsha Henderson’s husband (fifty years her senior), Newton Davies, died. His Will left Ms Henderson £25,000. The rest of his estate (around £575,000) was left to his daughter and a friend of his.

After this information was disclosed, Ms Henderson claimed to have located a more recent Will, which had been hidden in the attic, inside an empty Dorito packet; in this version Ms Henderson inherited the bulk of the Estate.

Generally a Will is disputed on one or more of five grounds:

  1. The Testator lacked the mental capacity to make a Will;
  2. The Testator did not know of / approve of the contents of the Will;
  3. The Will was not correctly executed;
  4. The Testator was subject to undue influence;
  5. The Will is forged or fraudulent.

Judge Gerald commented that the Will provided by Ms Henderson was “ridiculous”. The unlikely way the Will was hidden, when it was found, and the fact it referred to ‘her’ not ‘his’ last Will fuelled concerns the Will may not have been genuine. A handwriting expert assessed the document and it was concluded the second Will was a forgery. Mr Newton’s estate was distributed following the terms of the first Will, leaving the majority of his estate to his daughter and a close friend.

Whilst forged or fraudulent Wills are hard to identify, if an expected beneficiary has been left out or if one person unexpectedly benefits, largely excluding others, then specialist advice should be obtained on whether the Will can be challenged.

If you think a Will may be open to challenge please contact our Specialist Disputes Team and click here to view our Guide to Will Trust and Estate Disputes.