How to Handle a Fake or Tampered Will
While not common, wills do get tampered with, and even faked all together, from time to time. Will forgery is not only immoral and no only leads to disputes in Surrogate’s Court, but it is also illegal. In fact, will forgery is a Class D felony in New York and can lead to jail time. If you have been the victim of a forged will, what recourse do you have outside of the Surrogate’s Court system against the forger besides simply working with a Long Island estate attorney?
To start, not all crimes need to be handled directly with the police department, especially in the case of non-drug and non-violent crimes such as forgery. In a case such as that, it most likely will not be appropriate to call 911 to report that a will has been forged, especially if it was discovered through Surrogate’s Court proceedings or yours or your attorney’s investigation. The best choice is to go through the district attorney’s office in your county.
Contacting the district attorney’s office does not mean that you have to provide all of the evidence for them to make a case in any way. Turning over the evidence you have that leads you to suspect a will was forged and who you believe the forger was is fine. In fact, this could save you money in the long run since, if you pay your own attorney to do the investigation, you will be the one responsible for the legal fees. In contrast, if you report the forgery to the district attorney, they will be the ones who pay for the investigation.
If the district attorney’s office decides that there is sufficient evidence of will forgery and have a suspect, they will bring the person or persons responsible for the forgery before the criminal court system and possibly bring them to trial or enter a plea bargain. If the forger is found guilty or pleads guilty of the forgery, they could be sentenced up to 7 years in prison under New York law. Additionally, they may have additional issues related to being a felon and having a criminal record, including issues finding a job, getting professional licenses, living in an apartment complex that does criminal background checks or one of many other issues that felons face every day. Will forgery, like any felony, is not a crime to be taken lightly, even if it is a non-violent offense.
If you would like to press criminal charges, contact Nassau or Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. If you suspect that a will has been forged in some way, and you are trying to overturn the will in a civil proceeding, the best thing to do is still to speak to a Long Island estate attorney. For a free case evaluation, call us at (516) 777-0647 and speak with an attorney today.