Contesting a Forged Will
Courts are reluctant to throw out a person’s will because of the presumption that wills represent the intent of their makers. However, in some cases, it is possible to overturn a will if there is evidence of fraud, undue influence, or forgery. Because of the state’s presumption of validity, it can be difficult to establish that a will does not represent the wishes of a testator, so if your relative recently passed away and you believe that some or all of the will was forged, it is crucial to obtain the advice of an experienced contested estate attorney who can explain your legal options.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
In Illinois, the grounds for a will contest focus on the decedent’s mental and physical health at the time the will was created. This means that if a person used forgery to create or alter another person’s will, that document no longer represents the wishes of the author and an interested party can challenge it and have it invalidated. If there is evidence that a will was altered after it was signed or another paper was substituted for part of the will after signing, a plaintiff may be able to prove that the will was a product of forgery and should be invalidated. To establish that a testator’s will was forged, the plaintiff must demonstrate that:
In these situations, courts will look at a wide range of evidence in deciding whether forgery played a role in the creation or execution of a will. For instance, in forgery cases, it is often necessary to seek the opinion of a handwriting expert to establish whether a testator’s signature is genuine. This requires experts to inspect a variety of documents containing the testator’s signature so as to be able to compare those signatures with that on the contested will. If a handwriting expert is unable to determine whether the signature is authentic, a claim of forgery will rarely succeed. Even when an expert finds that there is evidence of forgery, if contradictory factual evidence is also introduced, the court may still err on the side of deciding that the will is valid.
However, if a court finds that part or all of a will was forged, it will be considered invalid and the decedent’s estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.
How a Dedicated Contested Estate Lawyer Can Help
Testators deserve to have their actual wishes fulfilled after their deaths, so if you live in the Northbrook, Evanston, Skokie, Glenview, Glencoe, or Highland Park areas and have reason to believe that a loved one’s will was forged, please contact Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by submitting one of our contact forms and we will help you schedule an initial consultation with an experienced contested estate lawyer.