In the recent case of Rainey v Weller & Ors  EWHC 2206 (Ch), the niece of Brenda Weller and three of her “favourite” grandchildren clashed over whether two Wills favouring them were valid, or forged.
Rainey v Weller & Ors
The Deceased made a Will on the 9th February 2018 leaving her estate predominantly to her niece, Ann Rainey.
A few weeks later, however, it was said that she made a new Will, on 5th March 2018, leaving her estate instead to three of her grandchildren, Francesca Mapp, James Weller and Amy Weller, who James described as the Deceased’s “favourite” grandchildren.
Ann brought a claim at Court that the March Will was invalid on the basis it had not been signed by the Deceased, and the signature that did appear on it had been forged.
The judgment is an interesting example of how a Court will forensically examine the circumstances surrounding the making of a Will and the document itself.
The Court heard from numerous witnesses and several experts, including handwriting and IT experts on the metadata attached to the relevant electronic documents, notably a digital photograph taken by James of the March Will.
Metadata is “data about data” and in this context is information held by electronic files which is to some extent hidden from “ordinary people”, but upon review reveals details as to when files were created, edited and by who, and when.
The Court found that the March Will had, on the balance of probabilities, been forged by James. It made this finding on the basis that:
- There was no evidence of fact of any reason for the Deceased to have changed her mind in such a short period of time;
- The grandchildren did not refer to the March Will in early correspondence challenging the February Will, when they ought to have known about it; and most interestingly
- The apparent metadata attached to the photo of the March Will (which would otherwise have supported its validity), could have relatively easily been manipulated by someone who had the right equipment and knowledge, such as someone who was able to “hack into computer games to give themselves more lives”.
If you are concerned that an estate of a loved one is to be governed by a Will you consider may have been forged, we are able to advise in relation to a claim to challenge that Will and have it declared invalid.