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Will Forgery leads to Contempt Conviction

The recent case of Patel v Patel [2017] EWHC 133 (Ch) is a stark warning of the dangers of attempting to pass off a forged Will as the genuine article.
In this case two brothers – Girish and Yashwant – found themselves at odds over their mother’s substantial Estate.  They were already involved in a lengthy dispute over the multi-million dollar family business.  When their mother died Girish obtained probate of a Will executed in 1986 under which he was appointed as sole Executor and beneficiary.
Yashwant sought probate in solemn form of an alleged Will of his mother dated 2005 under which he was named as sole Executor and beneficiary.
At the hearing, Yashwant adduced evidence of the two witnesses said to have witnessed the Will. It was alleged that the Will had been handwritten in Gujarati, typed into English, explained in Gujarati to the mother and then the witnesses had signed the Will.
The Court found that the 2005 Will was a forgery and that the “witnesses” had been induced to give false evidence.
The Court went on to order indemnity costs against Yashwant relying on the 2005 Will.
Following the civil claim Girish appointed by the 1986 Will brought a private prosecution against his brother for forgery and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He also applied for – and was given – permission to bring contempt of court proceedings against Yashwant and the witnesses.
The Court determined that it was in the public interest, proportionate and in line with the Court’s overriding objective to allow contempt of court proceedings.
Girish and the witnesses later admitted that they had all given false evidence. The witnesses were sentenced to 3 months in prison and Girish was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

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