With fraudulent wills on the increase we look at how to contest a fake will
The Public and Commercial Services Union has issued a warning that there is a real danger fake wills could go undetected if plans to outsource verification of online probate applications to a private company go ahead. The Government has proposed that the task of verifying the authenticity of wills (a job historically undertaken by experienced Probate Service staff) should in future be carried out privately. HM Courts and Tribunals Service has confirmed that the verification contract has been awarded to Exela, a company with experience in the bulk scanning industry. One particular concern voiced by the union is that Exela pay its staff a performance bonus for speed.
The union adds that the online application service which was introduced earlier this year has increased the time it takes for probate to be granted. The error rate in applications has also risen dramatically by 74%.
The problem of fraudulent wills is already a common one and we receive a steady stream of enquiries about how to contest a fake will.
One of the most effective steps that can be taken when a fake will is suspected is to apply for what is known as a caveat. A caveat prevents probate of the will being granted, so allows time for enquiries and investiagtions to be carried out and for a formal challenge to be made.
All fake will cases tend to be very different and turn on their individual facts. However, the key to success generally lies with being able to prove that fraud was involved. Enquiries with the witnesses to the will are often fruitful and we sometimes call in handwriting experts to pass a view on the authenticity of a signature.
Where the evidence supports the allegation that a will is fake then an application can be made to the court for a declaration that the fake will is not legally valid.
If the fake will is declared invalid then the estate will be distributed in accordance with the last valid will that was made. If there is no previous valid will then the intestacy rules will apply.