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What to Do if You Suspect a Forged Will

Despite the inherent tragedy of the occasion, reviewing a deceased loved one’s will is usually a routine affair. Family conflict is far from unusual, but in most cases, the division of assets between heirs won’t come as much of a shock. However, if you have reason to suspect an altered or forged will, let’s consider some next steps.

The Possibility of a Forged Will

Firstly, you must be someone who would be wronged if the will was accepted. You’ll need more than a simple disagreement over its terms to contest its legitimacy in court. So, before you consider challenging a will, you need a concrete reason to move forward with legal proceedings.

Maybe you viewed earlier versions of the will that were drastically different. Or, perhaps the final document contradicts conversations you had with your loved one about their estate plan. Another possibility is that an executor simply failed to perform his or her duties correctly, and overlooked assets.

No-Contest Clause?

It’s pretty standard for a will to include a “no-contest clause,” stating that it may not be challenged. But in actuality, such clauses can be dismissed when there’s a legitimate claim to contest.

Can You Challenge a Will After Probate was Granted?

While it’s necessary to meet various conditions before you can contest a forged will, it is still possible to challenge the document after probate is granted.

When a will is challenged following a grant of probate, it becomes the beneficiary’s responsibility to prove the document is invalid.

Forged Will Next Steps

If you suspect a will was forged, the next step is to consult with an experienced probate attorney. John F. Lewman, the Founder of Lewman Law, APC, has over twenty years of experience. He’s committed to resolving his clients’ legal issues with compassion and understanding. For more information, please contact us online or at (925) 447-1250.

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Signs of Duress in Probate Litigation

A person forced to act against their will is a victim of duress. This “undue influence” is psychological or physical coercion carried out against someone too vulnerable to resist. For example, forcing someone to sign a contract by threatening their personal safety. Because this agreement didn’t occur freely, the law considers it invalid. This article reviews signs of duress in probate litigation.

Validity of the Will

As stated above, a contract is void unless signed willingly, which, of course, includes wills. But the problem is that proving there were signs of duress can be difficult, especially when people have reason to be unhappy with the legal document in question.

Methods Used for Control

Like other forms of abuse, duress is ultimately about control, and there are two main types:

Physical Duress: This may include physical attacks or intimidation, resulting in bodily harm.

Duress by Improper Threat: It’s more common for perpetrators to gain control with threats, than actual physical violence. Unfortunately, it’s also more challenging to identify.

Signs of Duress

  • Withholding medication, food, or other vital necessities
  • Taking control of the victim’s finances
  • Unexplained changes to estate plans, perhaps while the victim is hospitalized
  • Physical injuries
  • Malnourishment
  • Anxiety, depression, or confusion
  • Emotional withdrawal

Proving Signs of Duress

When a victim depends on another person for food or shelter, medication, or even access to their own finances, it’s not a stretch to imagine the abusive ways control might be exercised. For example, in the case of elder abuse. Sadly, this is a classic example of vulnerability plus an opportunity for manipulation.

California bars inheritance based on the grounds of undue influence, whether that includes financial exploitation, elder neglect, or mental and/or physical violence. But coercion can be complex to prove in court. If you suspect signs of duress, we can help. For more information, please contact our legal team to schedule an appointment. Office staff can be reached Monday through Friday (9:00 am to 5:00 pm) at (925) 447-1250.

Filed under Probate Tips, Uncategorized