Fraud is one of a handful of reasons that you might be able to challenge a loved one’s estate plan or will. Fraud involves willful misrepresentation or deceit, usually with the desire for personal benefit.
Fraud involving estate documents may involve tricking the testator, the beneficiaries of their estate or the probate court. What are some of the common forms of fraud that might affect a will or other testamentary documents?
Tricking a testator into signing unknown documents
Someone providing medical care or daily support to an older or vulnerable adult could potentially get them to sign papers that they never review. If someone doesn’t know the contents of a document when they sign it, they might have put their signature on new estate documents that disinherit almost everyone in the family.
Completely falsifying documents
Someone might draft false documents, possibly electronic ones, and try to trick family members or the probate courts into upholding those documents as legitimate. Someone might draft estate documents that are almost identical to an existing plan while altering just a few sections for their own benefit, making it hard for other family members to spot the fraud.
Forging a signature or falsifying notarization
Sometimes, people make fake paperwork look legitimate by trying to duplicate the signature of a testator or by tricking or possibly bribing a notary public. A notary public should verify the identity of everyone signing documents in their presence, so this kind of fraud might involve the creation of fake identification cards or the use of a notary with a personal relationship to the person benefiting from the fraud.
There are certain state rules that help limit the risk of fraud, like requiring witnesses or notarization for certain paperwork. Recognizing fraud is a reason to bring an estate challenge that could help you protect your inheritance and uphold your loved one’s last wishes.