In a sad tale of bitter family acrimony, a judge has ruled that an adopted son forged his mother’s signature on her will as she lay dying from cancer on a hospital ward in the belief that he deserved to inherit her entire estate due to the care that he had given her.
The mother, aged in her 70s, was hanging on to life and had a ‘do not resuscitate’ notice at the end of her hospital bed when she was said to have executed the shop-bought will form. The will left her home and savings – together valued at about £200,000 – to her son and nothing to her daughter, who was also adopted.
The will was apparently signed by the mother and witnessed by her sister and a hospital nurse. However, the judge ruled, “I accept the evidence of the nurse that she did not see the mother sign the paper and that she did see the son sign it. It has not been suggested that both the son and the mother signed the will. I find that the son signed it, not the mother, and that he simulated his mother’s signature on it.”
Following a High Court hearing, the judge found that the will had not been properly executed and pronounced in favour of an earlier will, by which the mother had divided her estate equally between her son and daughter.
Accounts of the mother’s final days had ‘painted a sad picture of her suffering’. She was on heavy doses of opium when she was said to have signed the will. However, after considering expert handwriting evidence, the Court noted that her purported signature on the will was ‘fluent and firm’ when compared to the ‘very shaky’ version that had appeared on a ‘do not resuscitate’ consent form.
The Court acknowledged that the mother ‘might well have wanted’ to change her will so as to cut out her daughter. However, her son had ‘developed a sense of entitlement’ to her estate which he had displayed in the witness box.