High Court dismisses claim alleging forgery of father's will

In a landmark decision, the High Court has put an end to a family dispute over the validity of their late father's will. The contentious case revolved around allegations of forgery and a conspiracy to deprive one of the siblings of her rightful share of the estate. This ruling has significant implications, not only for the feuding siblings but also for the professional reputations and potential legal consequences faced by those involved in the alleged conspiracy.

The High Court has settled a dispute between four siblings over the validity of their father’s will. The court heard that the father had died on 11 September 2016. He had four children: the claimant and her three siblings (S1, S2 and S3). In a will found after his death, the father left his estate to his first wife, who was one of the defendants in the case. The will had purportedly been signed by the father and witnessed by two friends of S1 when they were at the family house. There was no other evidence as to how the will was created, nor if it had been professionally drafted. The net estate of £329,480 consisted of two residential properties and a filling station business. The claimant alleged that the will had not been signed by the father and that the witnesses were part of a conspiracy to prevent her inheriting an equal share of the estate. 

The court dismissed the claim. It held that the will was wholly rational. It was logical and to be expected, especially with a relatively low value estate, where the father was only maintaining his wife. It was unlikely that the witnesses would take part in a deception. Weight was given to the fact that both witnesses were independent professional women with substantial careers. The consequences of the alleged conspiracy would be professionally severe for S1, who was a solicitor, and for the witnesses, involving possible findings of forgery and lying on oath. All three could face fines and/or prison. The witnesses' evidence was accepted; that evidence was supported by handwriting evidence as to the father's signature. The law stated that the "strongest evidence" was required before a court would find that a will with an attestation clause and signed by the testator was not valid. The evidence of the witnesses as to the father signing the will and their attestation was conclusive. There was no other reason to revoke the grant of probate.

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