Undue Influence and Changing a Will
TV fans have been gripped recently by the BBC series ‘The Sixth Commandment’ – based on facts, it is an edge of your seat drama in which a fraudster tricks vulnerable and elderly people out of their savings and property and gets them to change their Wills.
Spoiler Alert - he manages to get a house and thousands of pounds which should have gone to the victims’ families.
This is perhaps a great time to warn people to always use a reputable solicitor when making a Will, do not rely on DIY newsagent or online Wills and always check reviews and get recommendations for your solicitors.
When you want to make a Will or indeed a Lasting Power of Attorney, a solicitor will always check the person making the Will has capacity and is not being pressurised by a third party.
A Will is a legal document that outlines a person's wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and belongings after their death. Unfortunately, fraudsters may attempt to manipulate or forge wills for their own financial gain, as in the TV series.
Some common ways fraudsters may target Wills include:
Fraudsters may try to forge a signature and create a fake Will that serves their interests.
A fraudster may exert undue influence over the testator (the person making the will) to coerce them into changing the Will in their favour. This is the premise of Sixth Commandment, but the fraudster is charming and cunning enough to make the changes appear to have been made willingly.
The families of the testator might challenge the validity of any Will by claiming that the testator lacked the mental capacity to make sound decisions at the time of creating the Will.
Concealing or Destroying a Will:
Fraudsters may steal or destroy a legitimate Will to replace it with a fraudulent one that benefits them. As in the TV series the fraudster took important documents belonging to one of his victims.
Fraudsters might add fictitious beneficiaries to the Will to receive assets that were never intended for them.
They could insert false information or claims in the Will to misrepresent the intentions of the deceased.
“Whilst this is a great show it is also a salutary lesson and reminder that a Will is such an important document,” said Legal Adviser, Lucy Roughley.
“A Will should always be kept in a secure place such as a bank, safety deposit box or at a trusted solicitor’s office so it cannot be altered, at Pearson we store Wills for clients and keep them safe. Whilst updates are sometimes necessary as families change with significant life events such as marriages, divorces, births, or deaths, at no time should you change your Will if you feel unsure as to why you are doing so. It’s always advisable to chat with your legal adviser on a one to one basis,” she warned.
“Finally, always communicate your intentions and your wishes to family members and beneficiaries, this helps to reduce the likelihood of disputes or fraudulent changes.”
If you suspect any fraudulent activity related to a Will, it's crucial to seek legal advice promptly. Contesting a fraudulent Will can be a complex legal process, and a contentious probate solicitor can guide you through that process.
How can we help?
For legal advice on making a Will or a Lasting Power of Attorney or if indeed you need to challenge a Will or believe you have an inheritance act claim contact our team on 0161 785 3500 or firstname.lastname@example.orgSubscribe to our newsletter
Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.