The question of will forgery or undue influence of a testator is not a common question, but one that does come up periodically in an estate planner’s office. The movies have given people certain expectations when it comes to a death in the family and probating a will: a book-lined office, the entire family assembled for a formal reading of the will, shocked and angry reactions as a loved one’s fortune goes to an unknown and unlikely character…
This Hollywood portrayal may be generally off base, but the basic premise is based on the very real feelings that come with the death of a loved one: helplessness, confusion, familial bonds, and sometimes even betrayal. A will doesn’t have to be forged for there to be strong feelings of anger or suspicion when the contents end up being different than the family was led to expect. And while forged or secret wills may not be as common as the movies would have us believe, they aren’t completely unheard of either.
So what should you do if you suspect that the will of a loved one has been forged or tampered with? First of all, don’t try to deal with the situation alone. Dealing with the death of a loved one is stressful and emotional, and everyone—including you—is likely to be quicker than usual to react without thinking. Instead, seek the advice of a trusted third party (an estate or probate lawyer is ideal,) someone who can help you distance yourself and look at the situation objectively.
Will forgeries are very rare, but incidents of testators (especially elderly testators) being unduly influenced by a selfishly motivated caregiver or family member are much more common. If you suspect foul play was involved in the creation of a loved one’s will, make an appointment with an estate or probate specialist. We can help you work through your suspicions in a safe environment and explore your options should you feel the need to take action.