Three women who faked their elderly neighbour's Will have received custodial sentences following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court. Karen O'Brien was sentenced to four and a half years, Gemma Gauci to four years and Leanne Collins to one year - all for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
The women claimed to have found the Will while cleaning the home of the deceased man, Mr James Wilmot. The faked Will named Karen O'Brien and Gemma Gauci as executors and beneficiaries, and Leanne Collins as another beneficiary. The late Mr Wilmot's estate was worth an estimated £320,000.
It is understood that the forged Will was created in 2013, Mr Wilmot passed away in October 2014.
It is believed that after O'Brien and Gauci had obtained a Grant of Probate, they started sharing the money from Mr Wilmot's savings and pension fund between themselves, and agreed an £87,000 sale of his home.
The trio were found out when a neighbour of Mr Wilmot's became suspicious of the women and the validity of the Will and called the police. The police subsequently discovered that Mr Wilmot's signature had been traced onto the document. Handwriting experts concluded that Mr Wilmot hadn't written "any part" of two wills allegedly made some time between a year and four years before he died.
Passing sentence Recorder Peter Griffiths QC told the defendants: "What you did was, quite frankly, despicable."
All three women each have several previous convictions.
What to do if you believe a Will is Fraudulent
Cases like the one above are very serious in nature, but thankfully are fairly rare.
A Will is considered invalid if it can be proven that it is fraudulent. The criminal law definition of this type of fraud is "an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual".
Examples of when a Will and surrounding probate circumstances are fraudulent include:
- the deceased's signature on the Will has been forged
- the Will was not signed in the presence of both witnesses
- if the last Will has been deliberately destroyed
- where the testator was duped into signing a document without being made aware that it was a Will
- where deliberately false information has been given to the deceased in order to persuade him or her to make certain terms in the Will (this is known as fraudulent calumny)
It can be very difficult to prove that a Will is fraudulent – mostly because the deceased is not able to give evidence as to the provenance of the Will. This is why there is a high burden of proof in such cases and expert evidence is required – for example from a handwriting expert.
If you have any concerns about the validity of a Will then please contact Oratto today and we will ensure that you are connected to a specialist Wills and probate solicitor who can help you ensure that both your legal rights and those of the deceased are fully respected.
Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.