A young widow’s invented story that she had found a new version of her late husband’s Will hidden in an attic, stuffed inside an empty Doritos packet, was branded ‘ridiculous’ by a judge.
Marsha Harrison was in her 20s when, in 2004, she married 76 year old lollipop man, Newton Davies. When he died nine years later, Mr Davies left his young widow just £25,000 and bequeathed the remainder of his £600,000 estate to his daughter and a family friend.
In an attempt to obtain the lion’s share of her late husband’s estate, Ms Harrison mounted a legal challenge claiming that the ‘newly discovered’ Will which she purportedly found hidden inside an empty snack packet, was a true reflection of Mr Davies’ wishes.
However, her case was dismissed by Judge Nigel Gerald, who declared the Will to be a forgery and therefore invalid. He pointed to the most obvious error in the forged document, which referred to it being “her” last Will rather than “his” and “in circumstances whereby the deceased was a man this was not an inconsequential defect”. Judge Gerald added that the story concocted by Ms Henderson was “ridiculous”.
Lee McClellan, a partner and contested Wills expert with Palmers said: “Fraudulent Wills can sometimes be a blatant fabrication, as was the case here, or they can be more subtle, for example where the signature of the person making the Will has been forged or the date has been changed in order to make the document appear to be the most recent version.
“If a Will is found to be forged, the deceased’s estate will be distributed in accordance with any preceding valid Will. If no earlier Will can be found, the assets will be distributed under the laws of intestacy.
“Although it can sometimes be difficult to spot a forged Will, signs to look out for include the deceased leaving out family members who would normally have been expected to inherit, or benefitting one person to the exclusion of others – in particular an individual who has recently come into the deceased’s life or helped them draft the Will.
“I have personally dealt with a number of cases involving Will disputes, where it was ultimately accepted that the Will was in fact a complete forgery.
“Anyone who is worried about the validity of a Will – whether this is as a result of concerns over fraud, lack of capacity or undue influence – should seek specialist advice at the earliest opportunity.”
For advice on contesting a Will, please contact us.