What to do about a forged Will?

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What to do about a forged Will?

My dad passed away a few months ago. Before he died he told everybody in the family what was to happen with his estate but he did not make a Will. He trusted my stepmother to carry out his wishes. After his death, she then informed us that everthing would be going to her and her kids. In looking into this matter, I found 2 POA’s filed 6 days before my father’s death. The signature was forged and the witness’s were her best friend and also the notary public was her best friend. The date on the document was a time when my dad was in a coma and his mind gone, a good month earlier. Talking to the doctor I was told that there was know way that he could have signed or read anything. Then we found out the she had drained accounts.

Asked on October 10, 2012 under Estate Planning, New Mexico

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It appears that you have several problems.  First, since your father died without a will, the law of his state will dictate who inherits his assets.  It does not matter who he told about his wishes or who he trusted to carry out his wishes.  Without a will, the state statute controls.  This is why everyone needs a will.

The person or persons entitled to inherit under the state statute could voluntarily give up their right to inherit, but in my experience, they rarely do this.  I know I already said this, but this is why everyone needs a will.  You might be surprised about this, but people who go through what you are going through still don't make a will.  You should make a will.

I do not know the state in which your father lived.  However, most states, including Florida, provide that the surviving spouse inherits most of the estate.  In Florida, if the deceased had children who are NOT the children of the surviving spouse, then the spouse inherits half of the estate and the children of the deceased inherit half.  Your father's state may be the same, or it may give all of the estate to the spouse. 

If you are entitled to inherit under the laws of your father's estate, and your stepmother forged a power of attorney, and she drained your father's accounts, she committed a crime and engaged in wrongful conduct under the civil law.  In Florida, she may be guilty of exploitation of the elderly and theft, both are felonies.  She may also have committed fraud, civil theft, undue influence, or other wrongs.

I suggest you speak with a probate lawyer in your father's state as soon as possible.  Many estate and probate lawyers do not like to engage in contentious litigation and this will be continentious litigation.  Be sure you speak with a lawyer who is willing to prosecute an adversarial lawsuit.  If the first 1 or 2 or 3 lawyers tell you that you have no case, call a different one.  If your facts are accurate and you have a right to inherit something from your father, you have a case.  Don't let them tell you otherwise.

Having said that you have a case, I am not saying you should pursue it.  Whether you pursue a case or not depends on the amount of money at stake.  If the amount of money justifies the expense (it will be considerable), time, and effort to pursue it, then you should proceed.  If the amount of money is insufficient, then you probably should let this matter pass.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  If people have no integrity and are willing to flaunt the law, it is often difficult and expensive to hold them accountable.  Unfortunately, this is why they do it.


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