Did Stepmom File a Fake Will?

Bigstock-Last-Will-76726700There is nothing new about children of a deceased millionaire fighting with a step-parent over the estate. A case in New York, however, is a bit unusual in some aspects.

Along with a $10 million estate, Dr. Nathaniel Shafer left behind a feud between his wife and his two adult children by a different marriage. His will left the entire estate to the wife and her child by a different marriage.

Problem: Jennifer and Robert Shafer, the children from a previous marriage, are claiming that their stepmother filed a fake will.  They want the court to throw that will out and to use an earlier will that leaves half of the estate to them. To prove their claim, the Shafer siblings are asking the court to waive a doctor-patient privilege so a therapist the couple saw can testify about their relationship.

The New York Post reported this story in an article titled "Siblings claim stepmom filed fake will to get $10M inheritance."

Claims of fake wills are not quite as common as claims of using undue influence to have someone create a new will. That might be because wills are not particularly easy to fake. It is not quite as simple as merely forging the deceased's signature. Wills require witnesses for a reason: so they can be called to testify that they did in fact see the deceased sign the will.

The original article does not explain how the siblings plan to get around the witness issue, if the witnesses are able to testify that they saw Shafer sign the will that was filed with the court. As is often the case, there may be more to this than meets the eye.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: New York Post (August 28, 2015) "Siblings claim stepmom filed fake will to get $10M inheritance."

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