Unravelling A Forgery

Challenging A Will

Cropper v Dimberlaine & Ors [2022] EWHC 2202 (Ch) (22 August 2022)

Case background

In August last year, HHJ Davis-White QC gave his judgment in the case of Cropper v Dimberlaine & Ors [2022] EWHC 2202 (Ch) in which he declared the Will of the late Bernard Dimberlaine made on 27 May 2017 was invalid as it had been forged.

The claim was brought by Colleen Cropper, one of the Deceased’s daughters, and as a person entitled to benefit if the Deceased had not in fact made that Will and died intestate.

The claim, and the 2017 Will, was defended by the Deceased’s partner, Elaine, and her children from an earlier relationship, Lisa and Mark. The Will was purportedly made by the Deceased using a home made Will kit and left his estate to Lisa and Elaine and was witnessed by Mark and his then wife Katie.

Katie later divorced Mark, and her new partner became embroiled in a dispute with Mark, which included threats to spill the beans and tell Colleen about the forgery of the 2017 Will, which is eventually what happened.

Elaine, Lisa, and Mark denied the forgery and insisted Katie was acting out of spite, and so the Court had to determine whether the Will was forged or not.

Handwriting Expert evidence was found to be of limited use as the experts did not have access to the original Will. What convinced the Judge however of the forgery was the late disclosure of a series of telephone transcripts between the Defendants and the Deceased’s insurers shortly after the death of the Deceased. In those conversations, the Defendants stated that there was no Will and discovered this meant they would not be able to inherit any of the Deceased’s assets. The plot to have a Will made was created after that.

During the litigation, the Defendants had tried everything to stop these documents from becoming available to the claimant, despite there being a Court order for their disclosure but ultimately were undone when they were produced.

The Judge commented that he was sure the Defendants were trying to do the right thing by giving effect to what they saw as Bernard’s wishes. It is clear however that taking matters into their own hands as they did was wrong, as is the lengths they went to hide the truth.  As such no doubt they will need to pay back any of the inheritance they had, along with a large bill for legal costs.

How can we help?

Lewis Addison is a Partner in our expert Dispute Resolution team, specialising in Will, Trust, and Probate disputes.

For more information regarding the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Lewis or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester, or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.

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