A forged or fraudulent Will will always be invalid.
The term “forged will” tends to be used to refer to circumstances where the will maker’s signature has been forged. The term “fraudulent will” tends to be used when the entire document has been manufactured without the purported will makers knowledge or consent.
It is usually necessary to obtain expert evidence to prove that a will is fraudulent or has been forged. The court requires very high standard of proof when allegations of fraud be made, and therefore it is incredibly unlikely that the case would succeed if the only evidence was the Claimant’s own “word of mouth”.
It will still be necessary for witnesses to give evidence about the circumstances surrounding the making of the alleged will, especially from the 2 people who attested to the document. Nevertheless, it also tends to be a common feature in forgery cases for a handwriting expert to be consulted. The handwriting expert will compare the signature on the will to a number of other known signatures of the deceased that are contemporaneous with the production of the alleged will. He or she will then reach a conclusion as to how likely the signature on the will was made by the person who produced all the other signatures.
There are cases where experts from other disciplines have also been consulted. For example, expert evidence might be called with regards to the age of ink on the paper, or the age of the paper itself (one would assume with a view to concluding that the document could not have been made at the time when it was allegedly dated). In a case where a home-made Will was said to have been created on the deceased’s personal computer, expert evidence was called concerning the meta data on the computer (in order to demonstrate that the deceased computer was not used to create the document).
If the expert is able to form a strong conclusion that the signature on the will was not made by the deceased, or that the document was not produced on the date of its alleged creation etc there would appear to be a strong case in favour of the will being invalid. However, that is not the end of the matter.
The court will hear evidence from the 2 attesting witnesses. If the attesting witnesses insist that they did indeed watch the will maker sign the document, and the court can find no reasonable ground to doubt the credibility of the attesting witnesses, that evidence is likely to be preferred over and above the expert evidence, regardless of how strong the expert’s conclusions are.
It can be an expensive process to consult an expert, and therefore it may be wise to investigate the production of the will by other means before deciding to incur the expense of the experts fees. An appropriately drafted “Larke v Nugus” enquiry, and an interview with the attesting witnesses may well help you to decide whether it is worth incurring those fees.
If the will is demonstrated to be fraudulent or a forgery, then it will not be accepted as being valid. The position will naturally revert to the circumstances that applied immediately before the alleged will was said to have been created. If there was a previous valid will, that this previous will continue to have effect. If there was no previous will, then the laws of intestacy will apply. Before embarking on a case, it is worth considering the consequences. It may only be worthwhile challenging a will on the grounds of forgery if the resulting circumstances favour you.