In a recent case, a husband and a wife had been married for nearly thirty years with four children. The husband owned a panel beating business and a range of commercial interests including the operation of tow trucks and considerable property holdings, all of which made him wealthy. The man died. His will left the entire $22 million estate to one of his sons. Nothing was left to his wife or other children. The beneficiary son obtained probate.
Eight years after the man’s death the wife sued in the Supreme Court claiming that the will was invalid, and that probate should be overturned. She asserted that she, and the beneficiary son, had drafted the will and that her husband was unaware of the document’s details. The wife gave evidence that her daughter had forged the man’s signature on the will a few weeks after his death. The man’s brother gave crucial evidence that he signed the will as a witness a month after the man’s death and only in the wife’s presence.
The beneficiary son denied these claims. He relied on evidence from a handwriting expert claiming that the signature was in fact his father’s. The son also claimed that one of his uncles had witnessed his father sign the will and his father was therefore aware of the contents of the will before dying.
The Court found that the beneficiary son and the husband had been estranged when the man supposedly signed the will. Furthermore, the Court found that a different handwriting expert’s evidence proved that the man had not signed the will and that the man was unlikely to have approved of the contents of his will.
The Court decided that the will was invalid and that the estate should be distributed as if the father had died without a will. Under the law, this meant that the estate went entirely to the wife.
It is not known whether anyone involved in the matter faced criminal charges!