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Fraudulent Calumny

You Were Left Out Of A Will Because Someone Lied21st Dec 2017

Fraudulent Calumny

What if your expected inheritance fails to materialise? What if a treacherous sibling (or someone else) has lied about you behind your back so they can benefit instead?

You can contest the will on the basis of ‘fraudulent calumny’: the shameful practice of lying to cheat someone out of their rightful inheritance.

In theory, fraudulent calumny is rare – you won’t see many cases going to court. Nor much mention of it in the media.

We suspect that many cases go undetected or unproven because the victims didn’t realise what had happened…or know how to prove it if they did.

That is likely to change. Contested wills cases are on the increase – so you may see fraudulent calumny being cited more often in litigation.

But it can be hard to prove. Contact our contested wills solicitors to find out other grounds for a case.

How To Prove Fraudulent Calumny

It’s not enough to complain that your elderly relative left everything to your creepy little cousin because he insincerely wormed his way into their heart. That won’t cut it in court.

Nor is it likely that you’ll have much success by suggesting that the aforementioned cousin once said something nasty about you because they didn’t like you.

Proving fraudulent calumny often involves demonstrating that the liar in question had repeatedly told falsehoods to poison the mind of the testator (the person who made the will).

Remember…you’re alleging fraud so the burden of proof is high. You must show that:

  • the false statements had a direct effect on the testator to make them cut you out of their will
  • the person spreading the false statements was either dishonest or – at the very least – reckless (not caring whether they spoke the truth about you or not)
  • you were a natural beneficiary who would have expected to have inherited but for the lies told about you
  • there is no other possible explanation for you being left out of the will.

That last bullet point is crucial!

And there’s a further sting in the tail: your claim will fail if the person making false statements genuinely believed that what they were saying about you was true.

Who decides whether they were lying? Who decides whether they sincerely believed they were telling the truth?
Those decisions rest with a High Court judge (Chancery division) rather than a jury.

How To Gather Evidence To Support Your Case

It’s very important to prove a pattern of behaviour by the liar over a period of time.

That means keeping a diary or record of the lies being told about you. Note down:

  • who attempted to blacken your reputation
  • what they said that was fraudulent
  • to whom they said it
  • who was there to witness it
  • the reaction of the testator when told the falsehoods.

The evidence you gather may seem circumstantial at first. When viewed as individual incidents they may not seem significant. But when considered as a pattern of events the proof could be damning!

Get Expert Legal Advice On Contested Wills

Proving fraudulent calumny is just one way to dispute a will – there are other grounds for taking legal action to claim your rightful inheritance.

For expert legal advice, contact our Wills department.

This document is not intended to constitute and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice on any specific matter. No liability for the accuracy of the content of this document, or the consequences of relying on it, is assumed by the author. If you seek further information, please contact Managing Partner Neil Andrews at Coles Miller Solicitors LLP.