Back story: I suddenly became unemployed and need work. A trusted friend connected me with someone who is willing to pay a large amount of money for me to transport a package. The package (allegedly) contains Last Will and Testament which must remained sealed. This is so when the recipients receive it, everyone can see it be opened for the first time and be sure of it.

Question: is this true? In law, how common is it for legal documents (such as a Last Will and Testament) to be sealed and become invalid if they are opened? How does this work? The destination is in the US. Also if they are forged documents could I be held liable to the crime?

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    THIS IS A SCAM. You are being used to transport something illegal. Get out and do not ever accept anything from this "friend" ever again. – Nij May 10 '17 at 8:50
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    @Nij probably is, but can you explain why? My friend won't accept it. – airtravelunequal May 10 '17 at 9:36
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    Your friend doesn't have to accept it. Either they're part of the scam or they're recklessly throwing you into it. Either way, they are clearly not on your side here. – Nij May 10 '17 at 9:41
  • @Nij, I recommend providing an answer detailing why this is likely a scam as it relates to the original question. – Pyrotechnical May 10 '17 at 14:49
  • I agree that it is probably a scam as it is not reasonable to mandate an unemployed with such a task, see this article on the late Harper Lee's last will: theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/08/…. – Singulaere Entitaet May 10 '17 at 18:55

In order for a will to be probated (acted on legally), a certified copy must be filed with the local probate court. Suppose the will is in a sealed envelope: you take it to the courthouse, and the clerk will have you open it, because they don't just take random sealed envelopes – the probate judge will read it. There is no official opening ceremony. It's an interesting question how the court would deal with a will that states e.g. "this will is valid only if it remains sealed in this envelope with such-and-such security seal", but if there were no competing wills, that clause would probably be ignored. The point is that in order to be acted on legally, the will has to be opened.

If the will is in a package containing, e.g. heroin, the aforementioned issue would arise in that the package must be opened in order to get at the will, with the added complication that if you open the package in the presence of the clerk, there's a fair chance that you will be arrested for possession of heroin.

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There is perhaps one chance in ten that this is legitimate. The one chance would be something like: the family disagree about what Uncle Bill's will actually says, and do not trust each other enough to allow any one of them to collect it from the lawyer. If an outsider collects the document from the lawyer and hands it over to a full family gathering, then everyone can see it at the same time.

The nine chances of dishonesty include a high chance that this package is not legal in either sense, a considerable chance that the document has already been tampered with and your 'friend' wants somebody else to blame if the tampering is discovered, and some chance that there has been a misunderstanding about court requirements (no document can ever become invalid if inspected, purely as a matter of logic), in which case getting caught in the middle of a lawsuit will very probably cost you more than you were paid.

Since you are apparently in dire need of the money (another thing this 'friend' will have considered before suggesting such a shady proposition), you may be tempted to accept the job, even at those odds. If so, there are a few things you can do to reduce your liability:

  • Make sure you collect the document from the lawyer directly. Not his secretary or front desk, and certainly not from some unidentified intermediary.

  • Do whatever you can to protect yourself from accusations. You and the lawyer both signing across the flap of the envelope would be one good way, but a lot depends on the situation. Basically, ask yourself "Can I prove that I never opened the envelope if an unfriendly detective asks me?" If not, don't take the job.

  • Make sure you know exactly who you are to deliver the envelope to, and don't budge on details. If Aunt Ethel is supposed to be there but has had to go to the doctor's unexpectedly, you just have to wait till she gets back. This is partly so that Aunt Ethel does not claim she was deliberately excluded, and partly so that nobody can say "You didn't actually fulfil the bargain, so you dobn't get paid". I know your friend would nver do that to you; but Wills, combining bereavement, family relationships and laws/money, do a lot of strange things to people's character.

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