In this case of a complex contentious probate dispute, we successfully helped our client (“the Claimant”) prove that her late father’s Will was a forgery and therefore not a valid testamentary document.
The Court was the High Court of Justice, Business and Property Court in Newcastle upon Tyne.
The Deceased had six biological children and his partner had two children from a previous relationship. Our client was one of the biological children.
Nearly a year after the Deceased’s death, the Claimant was tipped off that, after the Deceased’s death, a Will was fabricated by the Defendants. It also transpired after the Deceased’s death that he wasn’t actually married to his partner in spite of them both saying that they were and cohabiting for 30 years.
As the Deceased died without a Will, the intestacy rules mean that the estate would be split between the six biological children and the long-term partner would be entitled to nothing. The partner would have received part of the estate under intestacy had they been married. The contested Will left everything to the partner’s daughter.
The defendants had not obtained a Grant of Probate in respect of the contested Will and didn’t cooperate with the Claimant trying to address the dispute. The Claimant therefore applied for a Grant of Letters of Administration (probate in cases of intestacy) which gave them the power to start dealing with the estate.
The Claimant also issued their claim in the High Court. The claim was issued on the basis that the Defendants had administered the estate when they didn’t have authority to do so. They hadn’t obtained a grant of probate and in any event the Claimant said that the Will was a forgery.
Throughout the course of the proceedings, the Defendants continued to stonewall as long as possible. Newtons succeeded in obtaining crucial evidence after making an application to the court for specific disclosure.
The crucial evidence included a recorded call of one the Defendants speaking to an insurance company the day after death in which they said that the Deceased didn’t have a Will and wasn’t married. We also obtained an insurance claim form signed by one of the Defendants in which they said that there was no spouse or Will and that they were the only living child of the Deceased(!).
The trial was heard for three days during which there was intense cross-examination of witnesses. Abigail and Bethaney attended for all three days, providing invaluable assistance to our barrister and support to our client in what was probably the most nerve-wracking experience of their life.
Ultimately, the Judge concluded that the Defendants were evasive when answering questions and were not credible. On this basis the Judge found in favour of the Claimant that the purported Will was indeed a forgery, created after the Deceased’s death.
This outcome was achieved following years of hard work, persistence and dedication from both the Claimant and Newtons Solicitors.
Despite the positive the result, this case is not over, there is a consequential hearing to be listed which will deal with costs, the form of order which the claimant requires and a consequential inventory and account.
If you’d like to learn more about the case, the full reported judgement can be read here.
“The quality of service from Newtons solicitors is outstanding, specifically Abigail Noone who handled my case from day one. We would like to thank the full team for their great support and hard work to ensure we came out with a positive result. We can not thank them enough or rate them more highly. Special thanks to Abigail Noone, Bethaney Rush, Stephen Fletcher.”
This case highlights the importance of having a legitimate Will. If you would like assistance with creating a Will, or with contesting or defending a Will, please do not hesitate to contact our expert team.
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