A former judge and her husband faked a Will so that they could get their hands on property belonging to a distant relative they had never even met.
Margaret Hampshire, an ex-district judge and former Wills and Probate lawyer, together with her husband Alan, from Wickham Bishops in Essex, cooked up the fraud together.
The plan firstly involved planting a fake Will in the Nottinghamshire cottage of Mrs Hampshire’s relative, Martin Blanche, which purported to leave the property to their cousin, Mrs Josephine Burroughs.
Mrs Burroughs, who also part-owned a derelict cottage next to Mr Blanche’s property had entrusted Mrs Hampshire with Power of Attorney over her financial affairs. In a letter, also later found to be fake, Mrs Burroughs claimed she did not want either of the cottages in Nottinghamshire and was happy to hand them over to the Hampshire family.
However, the Hampshires’ plan to get their hands on the two cottages, which they had intended to convert into a retirement home, unravelled.
Following their arrest they initially tried to claim they were innocent of all wrongdoing, but at Nottingham Crown Court they changed their plea to guilty at the last minute and were subsequently jailed for 6 months.
Alan Hampshire also admitted stealing £23,000 of Mrs Burroughs’ money which had been used to fund renovations on the Nottinghamshire cottages.
During the pair’s court appearance, Martin Hurst, prosecuting, told how Mr Blanche had been “a simple man, not very well educated and there was a significant question mark over whether in fact he could actually read".
Villagers who knew Mr Blanche gave evidence stating that they were ‘extremely surprised he even left a Will or was in a position to write one’.
The typed letter, seemingly written by Mrs Burroughs, which handed over the cottages to the Hampshires, was purported to have been signed by her years before her death in 2014.
But in Court, Mrs Hampshire admitted she had forged the letter, which she had prepared on her computer. A handwriting expert also confirmed the signature on the letter did not belong to Mrs Burroughs.
Lee McClellan, a partner with Palmers who specialises in litigation relating to disputed Wills, said: “This case is particularly shocking, given that Mrs Hampshire used her professional legal expertise in an attempt to defraud others.
“However, as is so often the case with forgery attempts, the pair were not as smart as they thought and the police were able to uncover the truth.
“I have personally dealt with a number of cases involving Will disputes, where it was ultimately accepted that the Will was in fact a complete forgery.
“Anyone who is worried about the validity of a Will – whether this is as a result of concerns over fraud, lack of capacity or undue influence – should seek specialist advice at the earliest opportunity.”
For advice and help with Will disputes, please contact us.