The movies have given people certain expectations when it comes to a death in the family and probating a will; this Hollywood portrayal includes an attorney, a book-lined office, and the entire family assembled for a formal reading of the will which ends in shocked gasps as the entire fortune goes to an unknown and unlikely character. Inevitably, there is some intrigue surrounding a possible forgery of the will.
This Hollywood portrayal may be completely 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. Forged or secret wills may not be as common as the movies may have us believe, but as recent events and this article in the Wall Street Journal reveal, 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, someone who can help you distance yourself and look at the situation objectively.
As mentioned in the article above, will forgeries are very rare, but incidents of testators (especially elderly testators) being unduly influenced are sadly not rare enough. 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. With professional guidance, you can better work through your suspicions in a safe environment and explore your options should you feel the need to take action.