The Strange Case of the Unforged Forged Will - Spear's Magazine

The Strange Case of the Unforged Forged Will

Take the case of the hapless lady accused of forging her late (supposedly divorced) partner's will, found by chance when he seemingly died intestate

The truth is so much stranger than fiction!

As a hole unexpectedly appeared under a man’s bedroom in Florida last week (with tragic consequences), I am sure there are many who have wished either to disappear themselves, or that others might do so.

And as we draw closer to the Budget, the Chancellor may well be wishing for a sink hole in Westminster, strategically located to provide either a speedy exit or a repository for his opponents (on whichever side of the house).

Take the case of the hapless lady accused of forging her late (supposedly divorced) partner's will, found by chance when he seemingly died intestate. She was convicted even though:

(i) she wasn’t a named beneficiary, and could not benefit under it, having acted as a witness (a witness to a will cannot benefit under that will); 

(ii) the other witness to the will swore that it had been executed properly;

(iii) a handwriting expert testified that the will was genuine; and

(iv) the deceased's not-quite-former wife who mounted the challenge (in the hopes of benefiting from a finding of intestacy, as their divorce was never finalised) admitted to forging a codicil.

Read more: Poorly-drafted wills provoke family conflict

The story has a happy ending, however. Recently, the High Court decided that the will was genuine ‒ the strange indentation marks which the accused was unable to explain on the will she found, turned out to have been caused by the testator signing a duplicate will (later found), while leaning on the allegedly false will.

She now plans to appeal her criminal conviction, but this extraordinary tale reminds us once again of the importance of making a will, keeping it somewhere obvious, and telling people you have made one. And, of course, finalising your divorce.

Next week, we hope to have collated some Budget predictions for your perusal.

Sophie Mazzier is counsel at private client law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP

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