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In any legal system (in which individuals can transfer property ownership upon their death through wills), there are probably criteria for when a will is admissible (e.g. the deceased was cognitively able to author one, no excessive influence etc); and if a will cannot be trusted to be valid, it will not be upheld (I presume).

My question is about the sanctions in the more extreme case, in which not only is a will not "trustworthy" enough set aside, but rather is the result of factually-established acts such as forging the signature, forging the text, forcing someone to sign against their will and so on. To clarify, I mean the cases in which there is strong, direct, irrefutable evidence forgery/coersion did occur.

I'm interested in examples of different approaches, especially in common-law and vs civil-law legal systems.

Notes:

  • The will being set aside is not really a sanction... like the failure to get the loot from a bank robbery is not a sanction. I'm talking about what happens to someone who's commited such acts and has been discovered/proven to have done so.
  • The UK, the US, France or Germany are particularly interesting.
  • A related question is more general w.r.t. the legal ramifications of forgery; more specific w.r.t. the kind of forgery; and does not assume the forgery can be established in court. The answers to that question therefore do not address mine, and certainly do not regard the differences between legal systems.
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  • @TimLymington: See edit.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 13 '19 at 10:07
  • Actually, that question explicitly assumes that the forgery can be proven, and different answers address the sanctions in different systems. It may be that you are asking about what action the criminal justice system can take, as opposed to any individual affected; but merely saying "this isn't a duplicate" doesn't make it so. Jun 13 '19 at 11:25
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Up to 10 years in prison

Part 5 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 deals with forgery and s253 specifically deals with making a false document - it doesn't matter if that false document is a will or anything else. As an aside using a false document, possessing a false document and having materials designed for making false documents carry the same penalty.

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    Interesting that there's no specific sanction regarding wills, neither for actually demanding anything based on the forgery. Thanks.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 13 '19 at 12:49
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In General

Forging a will, or coercing someone to sign a will or any similar document would be a serious crime in pretty much every jurisdiction that I have heard of. The exact penalties and legal provisions would vary, but if this were proved then the person responsible would be tried, convicted and sentenced to some significant punishment.

Maryland

The law of is not atypical in the on such matters. Code section Section 8-601 prohibits forging a wide variety of documents, including "(14) [A] will or codicil". It further provides that

A person who violates subsection (a) of this section is guilty of a felony and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both.

Mere possession of such a forged document "knowingly, willfully, and with fraudulent intent" is a misdemeanor subject to a fine and up to three years imprisonment under subsection (b) of the above section.

In addition Maryland Estates and Trusts Section 4-102 requires that a will be signed in the presence of two other persons, who must witness the will in the presence of the testator. Use of a Notary Public is advised although not required. It is also advised that the testator initial every page of the will. These precautions make forger somewhat harder.

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  • I'm guessing that $1,000 figure inspired more fear a hundred years ago?
    – einpoklum
    Sep 23 at 7:03
  • @einpoklum It might have, but that section (or the chapter containing it) was last amended in 2005, according to the notes at Justia. I don't know if the amount of the fine was revised then, but it could have been. The legislature also visited the chapter several items during the 2nd half of the 20th century, according to the same notes. Sep 23 at 14:15
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This would appear to be covered by the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, s 1 (making a false instrument); the use and dissemination of the false instrument, or of disseminating copies of it are also offences under succeeding sections. This is punishable (under s 6 of the 1981 Act) by up to ten years imprisonment.

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