Forging The Will

Great Aunt Gladys: Now, let's get down to business.
Lionel Hutz: (on tape, with no attempt to hide the fact it's dubbed) To my executor, Lionel Hutz, I leave $50,000.
Marge: Mr. Hutz!
Lionel Hutz: (in real life) You'd be surprised how often that works, you really would.

Bob, the ridiculously rich owner of Trope & co., is finally dead. He wants to leave everything to his children in his will, but his Treacherous Advisor or his Gold Digger wife interferes.

A common plotline during a Succession Crisis or inheritance squabbles involves someone altering the contents of the deceased's will. Whether by forgery, magic or other shenaningans, the individual will tamper with the document or replace it with a new one, leaving the succession to himself or his heirs. The rightful heir will be stunned, and his suspicions will eventually lead him to pursue the truth. Often, the perpetrator will be an aunt, uncle or a Gold Digger spouse. In real life, a will that is found to have been forged or unduly influenced by another party will be found invalid by a probate court, which generally results in the estate being distributed by intestate succession statutes instead.

If the deceased's will has not been found, see Lost Will And Testament. Common in Law Procedural and Murder Mysteries.


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    Comic Books 
  • In "A Fat Tip For Murder!", a story printed in Crime Does Not Pay (a comic book retelling true crime stories), a hospital orderly is left $50.00 in a grateful wealthy patient's new will, then told to deliver it to the patient's attorney. He alters the will so that he will inherit $5000 instead, then murders the patient to ensure that he can't be asked if this is a typo. Unfortunately for the orderly, both the patient's attorney and a nurse catch on.

  • Casper: Discussed. Upon learning the contents of her father's will, Carrigan berates Dibbs for not forging one.

  • In Deryni, Cinhil's will is tampered with, to allow one faction amongst the regents to seize power. His son Rhys Michael alters his will to give legal cover to a move against the evil regents.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire and the TV show based on it, Game of Thrones, as King Robert is dying, he dictates his will for Eddard Stark to write. Robert says "to my son, Joffrey", but Ned replaces this with "to my rightful heir", as he had learned that Joffrey is not actually Robert's son.
  • Lampshaded in Witches Abroad. When being told the story of how the old Baron of Genua died, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg both make the Genre Savvy assumption that the one now in control, the Duc, has control because of a will discovered shortly after the Baron's death with the ink still wet.
  • The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Canto XXX) mentions that Gianni Schicchi, one of the souls in the eighth circle of Hell, had impersonated Buoso de Donati in order to create a forged will which assigned a prize mare to himself. This brief mention was adapted into Puccini's one-act opera Gianni Schicchi, which gives the title character a noble motive for his alleged greed.
  • In Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, Mick Stranahan forges a will in the name of presumed-dead Joey Perrone, leaving $13 million to her husband, as a ploy to find out just how greedy he really is. Joey would never have lavished such money on her scumbag of a husband as long as she was alive, which she happens to still be.
  • In the Hercule Poirot book Peril at End House the will of Magdala "Nick" Buckley is forged by the Crofts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One Rumpole of the Bailey story revolves around a forged will; Rumpole is retained by the true beneficiary to represent her in challenging the false will. (He's initially reluctant to venture into a civil court case, but he can't resist a good forgery.)
  • In the French TV series Le Retour d'Arsène Lupin has an episode titled "La tabatière de l'Empereur" (The Emperor's snuff box) in which the titular Gentleman Thief inherits from a friend a snuff box that saved that friend's life during the war. When said box is not mentioned at the reading of the will, he knows it has been forged because the defunct was too honor-bound to simply forget about it.
  • In one episode of Brazilian TV series Flora Encantada (Enchanted Flora), Gana Ganância (in case you're wondering, "Ganância" means "Greed") stole the will through which Flora inherited her Grandfather's lands and forged one where he named Ganância as his heir.
  • In Brazilian series "Você Decide" (You Decide), there was a story where a wealthy man wouldn't leave his son and his daughter more than required by law and intended to leave everything else to a center of medical research. While he was dictating the terms to his lawyer, who was writing it by using a typewriter, he had a choke and decided to sign it and trust the lawyer (who already knew his intentions) to do the right thing. That episode's dilemma was about being honest or forging the will.

    Video Games 
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, there is a horde of salvage worth a small fortune stuck in legal limbo on Dantooine, as everybody with a legal claim to it is dead. The authorities have had to deal with numerous forged wills and the player character can ultimately wind up finding the real will. You have the choice of whether or not to alter the will in order to inherit the contested loot. If you do alter the will, the authorities will recognize it but will give you the cache anyway because they are tired of dealing with the issue. If you do not alter it, the situation remains ultimately unresolved as it leaves the horde to somebody who is also dead, so there is still no clear solution for the authorities.
  • In Professor Layton and the Last Specter, Chief Constable Levin 'Third Eye' Jakes changes Mr Barde's, the primary landowner of the town, will to leave the majority of Misthallery to Mayor Triton, Barde's only friend, as part of Jakes' plan with Descole to become Mayor and find the Golden Garden.

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in The Simpsons: When Marge's great-aunt Gladys dies she leaves a Video Will. The lawyer edits it to say "I leave my lawyer $50,000." A look from the family lets him know they don't believe it, but he says "You'd be surprised how often that works, you really would!"
  • Stunt Dawgs: Fungus' lawyer forged a will where Splat's family's fortune belongs to Skidd and Skidd has to keep it otherwise the Stunt Dawgs will lose their funds.

    Real Life 
  • Howard Hughes died without a will, and several forgeries turned up. The most famous one was by Melvin Dummar, who claimed that he had picked up Hughes hitchhiking one day and was given $156 million in a handwritten will. This later became the basis for the film Melvin And Howard.
  • Since one way of imperial succession in XVIII century Russia was will written by a reigning emperor, pretenders were known to show up with documents like these. Princess Tarakanova is the most well known one, claiming to be an illegitimate daughter of the late Empress Elizabeth and sporting a convincing enough will that supposedly legitimized her birth.