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Accountant Forged Mother's $50 Million Will

Will disputes can be extremely bitter and the kind of skulduggery depicted in fiction sadly sometimes reflects reality. In one case, the High Court found that a well-respected accountant had forged his mother's will in order to gain control of business interests worth $50 million.

The woman signed a will in 1986 by which she left her entire estate to one of her four sons. However, some years after their mother's death, one of his younger brothers produced another purported will, said to have been executed in 2005. If valid, that will conferred on him a stake in an asset that was described as the 'jewel in the crown' of a family business empire valued at around $200 million.

However, detailed forensic analysis of the 2005 will revealed that it was a forgery. For reasons of business convenience, the woman had been in the habit of signing blank documents in bulk so that their content could be filled in after the event. The impression of another signature of the deceased on the purported will, in close proximity to her actual signature, was consistent with her having pre-signed a number of empty sheets, one on top of the other.

The Court concluded that, despite his professional and business achievements, the brother had taken advantage of his mother's practice for his own benefit. He had brazenly lied and had a powerful motive for forging the will. In the circumstances, the Court found that the 1986 document had rightly been admitted to probate as the woman's last true will.

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    Although the sums involved were exceptional and allegations of forgery are fortunately rare, disputes over wills are not. In this case, a willingness to fight their corner strongly with professional advice has brought justice for the family. In civil cases such as this, the allegations only need to be proved on a 'balance of probabilities', not 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

    For advice concerning any issue relating to the validity of wills or the conduct of an executor or attorney, contact us.

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    The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.