Often in estate litigation an issue will arise as to whether or not a legal document has been forged.
Often when a document has been notarized by a licensed notary this issue of forgery will be dropped. Not so fast. The issue should be fully developed.
In a recent case of ours at issue was a forged deed by an elder lady who had purportedly deeded a valuable apartment house to her niece. We represented the executor of the elder’s estate and our client wanted us to take a hard look at the forgery issue. We had our expert compare the elder’s signature on the deed with known exemplars of her handwriting and signature and his expert opinion was “maybe”. Next, we examined the elder’s medical records as of the date of the purported signing which was actually 10 years before she had died. From these records we learned that on that date she was hospitalized in a local hospital with a broken leg, the leg immobilized in a cast and she was bedridden with her leg raised and could not ambulate more than a few feet without the aid of crutches. Further, the hospital had a rule that patients in the elder’s position could not leave the hospital without being signed out by a doctor. We learned that on the subject date no doctor had signed the elder out. We then took the notary’s deposition and in her testimony she indicated that the elder had come into her office located in a title company across town from the subject hospital and walked in with the deed under her arm without the aid of crutches and had no leg cast, and signed the deed giving the apartment house to her niece which the notary then notarized. We then questioned the notary about the evidence set forth in the medical records and she totally recanted her story.
Another win for the good guys.