Unfulfilled hopes of substantial inheritance are commonplace, both in fact and fiction, but not often do they lead to such ham-fisted attempts at forgery as that shown by a disappointed widow after her husband left her just £25,000 of his £600,000 estate.
The woman was 50 years younger than her husband, who died aged 76, and their marriage had been a cause of consternation to his family. By a properly executed will, drafted by a solicitor, he left £430,000 of his estate to his only child by a previous marriage, £140,000 to an old friend and £25,000 to his widow.
After his death, however, the widow produced a purported later will that on the face of it bequeathed all but £50,000 of the estate to her. She said that she had found the document in the attic of her husband’s home, hidden inside an empty packet of crisps. In entering the earlier will to probate, however, a judge found that she had orchestrated an attempted fraud by forging the later document herself.
Describing her account as ridiculous, the judge noted that no explanation had ever been given as to how such an elderly man would have been able to gain access to the loft space or why he would have chosen to secrete his will in a crisp packet. The contradictions in the widow’s evidence were risible and the forgery had been comprehensively exposed by a handwriting expert. The document was also littered with errors, including a reference to the deceased in the attestation clause as ‘her’.
There are a number of factors that may make a will suspicious – for example, a new will created shortly before death which makes changes to the beneficiaries, a will made without the benefit of a solicitor or one which is discovered unexpectedly and so on.