There are few thornier subjects than inheritance and failing to sign a professionally drafted will can leave those who live on after you with a burning sense of grievance. In an
The case concerned a flat that was worth about £130,000. It was initially in the sole ownership of a woman who lived there with her partner and daughter. The partner latterly became her joint tenant, however, and he inherited the entire property on her death. He also died the following year and, as he had not made a will, the property was set to pass to his two daughters from a previous relationship.
The woman’s sister and the latter's husband, however, took the view that that outcome did not reflect the true wishes of the deceased and that, had he made a will, he would have left the flat to her daughter. The couple produced a purported will by which the deceased had apparently done just that.
They were, however, arrested after suspicions were raised and a handwriting expert who examined the document, which had been completed on a shop-bought will form, testified that there was very strong evidence that both the writing on the will and the signature it bore were not those of the deceased. The couple insisted that the will was genuine. However, following a trial, they were convicted of conspiracy to defraud by making a false representation. She was jailed for 18 months and he received a 16-month sentence.
In challenging their convictions before the Court of Appeal, the couple argued that jurors should not have been told that the two witnesses to the purported will had previously admitted involvement in the conspiracy. They had received suspended sentences. In dismissing the couple’s appeals, however, the Court rejected claims that the admission of that evidence had prejudiced their defence or undermined the fairness of their trial.