You would be surprised how many attempts are made for wills to be forged

Is it possible for disgruntled beneficiaries to forge signatures on ‘Wills’, for their own financial or material gain, or indeed for the benefit of others?

This issue is contentious, and more practitioners are beginning to see it on a regular basis. A recent judgment on this topic shows how important expert handwriting evidence is in cases like this.

In the case of : Rainey v Weller, in which Deputy Master Linwood described as yet “another sad and bitter family dispute concerning wills”, the court was asked to determine whether a will made on 9 February 2018 was genuine (“the February Will”), and/or whether a later Will made on 5 March 2018 (“the March Will”) was also genuine; this concluded by revoking the ‘February Will’.

The ‘February Will’ was prepared professionally by Austin Ryder Solicitors. Mrs Weller, the deceased, gave her instructions on 2 February 2018 and expressed her wish to appoint Ann Rainey, her niece and the claimant, as sole executrix and sole beneficiary of her estate. The ‘February Will’ was executed on 9 February 2018, at Austin Ryder’s office in Cheshunt.

The defendants then laid claim that in March 2018, Paul Weller, the first defendant and son of the deceased, prepared a Will for his mother after receiving her instructions, using a template he found online. The ‘March Will’ appointed Paul as sole ‘Executor’ and divided the estate equally between the deceased’s three grandchildren. Paul’s mother purportedly confirmed to him that that was what she wanted.

Post the deceased’s death in November 2018, Paul, without telling Ann, applied for the Grant of Probate using the ‘March Will’, getting this in January 2019. Ann instructed solicitors after seeing the ‘March Will’, as she did not believe the deceased’s signature was genuine, she believed it to have been forged – most likely by Paul.

Proceedings were issued and all parties obtained expert ‘Handwriting Evidence’. The case was heard over a Three-Day Trial, in total,13 witnesses were called to give evidence. After careful consideration of the ‘Witness Testimonies’, together with the expert ‘Handwriting Evidence’ before him, Deputy Master Linwood held that the ‘March Will’ had been forged and the deceased didn’t execute that will. He held that it was forged for a plethora of reasons, including:

1 – It would have been highly improbable, certainly verging on impossible, that the deceased would have significantly changed her wishes in a 4 week period;

2 – It did not make sense that the lady would not have gone back to her solicitors to amend the will;

3 – Paul did not produce the ‘March Will’ straight away;

4 – The evidence of the claimant’s handwriting expert was moderate to strong that the signature had been forged.


The Deputy Master held that on the balance of probabilities, Paul had fabricated the ‘March Will’ at some point after his mother’s death, due to the fact, that he was not made aware of the terms of the ‘February Will’ until his mother passed away.

Mrs Weller had a long, deep and loving relationship with the claimant and trusted her – as is evidenced by appointing her as executrix and LPA – but had no such relationship with her own children or some of the grandchildren, so Paul’s disappointment upon seeing the ‘February Will’ would have been clearly evident.

The attendance notes prepared by Austin Ryder confirmed what the deceased’s intentions were, in February 2018, and there were no such attendance notes for the ‘March Will’, this would have explained such a hasty change in intentions.

This particular case also highlights the continued gravity of expert handwriting evidence in litigation. Regardless of how many signatures someone has sight of, it is highly implausible that they will be able to profitably imitate that signature to the extent that a specialist handwriting expert will not identify such a forgery.

If you require assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.