Recognizing a Fraudulent Will: Part One

Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people in the world that will go to great lengths to take advantage of certain situations. This is true when it comes to a person’s Last Will and Testament. While you might never contemplate changing a person’s Will to suit your needs, that does not mean other individuals will not try. Unfortunately, this can sometimes include members of your own family. While there are a variety of steps an individual can take to cover their tracks if they have interfered in the Will of a deceased person, there are some common warning signs that might help you detect if a Will has been forged or not. The following information may provide you with some insight in what to look for.

Wills Not Signed in Presence of a Lawyer

If a Will was not signed in the presence of an experienced estate planning attorney, there is a good chance the Will could be fake. In fact, if the Will was not signed in the presence of the deceased person’s estate planning or family attorney but was signed in front of a different attorney with little or no relationship to the deceased, there could be foul play involved. Estate planning is often an intimate, complicated process. It is important for individuals to be comfortable with their estate planning attorney, and utilizing outside legal services – especially legal services that have a relationship with potential beneficiaries – could mean a Will is not proper.

Large Variances in Distribution

One of the most important aspects of comprehensive estate planning is communicating your wishes and plans to your heirs. Not only can this help them understand why you have made certain decisions, it can also provide them with a solid understanding of your estate planning goals that can be compared to the actual distribution of your assets when the time comes. If you notice that a Will is being distributed in a way contrary to what your understanding of the deceased’s wishes were – and especially when distribution is contrary to recent versions of a Will you may have seen – this could indicate that something is awry with the Will.

Exclusion Without Reason

Wills that exclude loved ones like a spouse or child for no apparent reason are often suspect. If a deceased person gave no indication that someone would be excluded or provided no concrete reason for such an exclusion, coming across this scenario could be a red flag that someone has interfered with the Will. People do not typically exclude important heirs like a spouse or child without good reason, and many estate planning attorneys will encourage individuals planning on such exclusions to discuss them with other family members and to memorialize the reasoning behind it within the Will. Absent these types of explanations, an outright exclusion could be a sign that a Will has been tampered with or even that undue influence was exerted at some point during the drafting of the Will.

Beneficial Exclusions

Much like total exclusion, a Will that seems to disproportionately benefit one person while significantly disadvantaging or even excluding another could be another sign that a Will is not what it appears to be. Typically, most people try to distribute their assets to equal heirs in an equitable manner. While that might not mean such individuals will be splitting assets completely down the middle, it is important to look for fairness and continuity in the way assets are distributed in case something has been altered.

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