What Do I Do If I Suspect Will Forgery?
Many people are surprised, if not shocked, to learn that they inherited nothing from a family member’s estate. In some cases the excluded family member may suspect the will itself was forged or tampered with in some way. Although will forgery is rare, it does happen. So what steps should you take if you suspect your loved one’s will is a fake?
It May Not Matter if the Will Was Forged
There was a recent case in California, In re Estate of Brown, where a woman filed a holographic will purportedly executed by her sister before her death. “Holographic” is a legal term for a will that is made entirely in the testator’s handwriting rather than typewritten. The deceased woman’s husband contested the will, alleging it was a forgery. The challenge failed and the California probate court eventually approved the will.
Contesting a Possible Will Forgery Is a Serious Matter
You cannot just show up in court and claim the will was a forgery. The judge will not simply take your word for it. To the contrary, when presented with a will that appears to meet all of the legal requirements from execution in Florida, the court will assume the will is genuine unless someone can prove otherwise.
Also keep in mind that there are strict time limits to file an objection to a will. So you need to act quickly if you suspect forgery. If you are an interested person in the estate–i.e., someone who would benefit if the will were found invalid–then you can take action.
How Do You Actually Prove Forgery?
Proving forgery can be quite difficult. The first step is usually to seek discovery and depose anyone who was involved with preparing the purported will, such as the attorney who drafted the document and the persons identified as witnesses. If the will was “self-proving,” it was notarized, so the Notary Public would also be a key witness. You may also need to consult experts in areas like handwriting who can challenge the authenticity of the testator’s signature on the will.
Get a Lawyer
Contesting a will on any grounds, including forgery, requires a good amount of legal expertise. You need to work with a qualified Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation attorney who knows how to handle these cases. Contact attorney Mark R. Manceri today to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.