I've seen and read about lots of relatives of deceased wealthy individuals disputing the dead person's will and I've always been curious about this:
Suppose I'm a lawyer (who I'm not) and I'm holding the will of a dead multi-billionaire. In his will, the dead guy insists that his wealth must go to many people other than his family.
Now, let's suppose that I also happen to be an unscrupulous lawyer. At this point, I have only two options, the first one being that I can release the will and gain nothing but the fees for my services.
On the other hand, because they are all excluded from the will, the guy's family might be disgusted by his betrayal. My second option will thus entail teaming up with the family to make the will disappear, provided that they can guarantee me a fraction of the fortune. The logic being that when there's no will, property gets divided up among the dead person's immediate relatives.
At this point, I can see only three problems.
The first problem being that his family might actually be in agreement with his will and there's the possibility that they mutually agreed to be excluded from it.
The second problem being that his family are not in agreement with being excluded from his will but the people included in the will are aware of the existence of that will, and are also aware that they are mentioned as beneficiaries of the estate.
The third problem being the matter of witnesses.
Solving the first problem will be dead simple. I'll simply drop by their house, show them the will, and observe their reaction. If his family is shocked that their names are nowhere in or near the document, I'm in luck.
Admittedly, the second problem will require much more work. All I'll have to do is find a way to completely ascertain that there is no copy of the will that I'm holding.
Last, the witnesses. If the dead guy was a shrewd man, he'd have brought along people wealthier than him to witness his signing of his will, as they won't need any of his money. But let's just assume that all the witnesses are the kind of people who can be bought for a few million dollars.
The way forward then becomes clear -- gang up with the family and make a lot more money than I'd otherwise make if I just handed over the will to the courts.
Okay, since I don't know anything about law, I realize I might have made lots of naive assumptions but you get the whole drift.
So what's to stop a rogue lawyer from pulling off something like this?
EDIT: In retrospect, my question sounds highly unethical. But its purely an intellectual itch that keeps coming back to taunt me every time I come across property disputes. For my age, I can be considered a fairly wealthy guy whose wealth will only increase with time. While I don't have a wife and kids yet, I can't help wondering if scenarios like those actually happen in real life.