This paraprosdokian1 came to mind during the investigation of the former companion of a man who died, in testate, of sudden cardiac arrest at 45. But it was no joking matter, and there was no will. We were assisting the attorney retained by the decedent’s father to handle the probate. Shortly after the probate filing a woman appeared, and said she was the ex-girlfriend with a copy of a will naming her as his only heir. The decedent’s father, the executor of the estate, recalled the woman but said his son, “Bob,” and “Carol” had dated only a short time and the relationship had ended at least four months before his passing. Bob, divorced for several years and with no children, had left behind a home and some investment accounts. The attorney who drafted the document and the witness to the signing were unknown to the father, who was familiar with all his son’s business matters and knew his friends and acquaintances. To the father, the will made no sense.
A background investigation on Carol revealed financial reversals in recent years, including a divorce where she received no settlement except a heavily mortgaged home. She appeared to be unemployed at the time of the investigation and her nurse’s license had expired. Next, we focused on the attorney who drafted the will and the witness who signed it. The attorney was a sole practitioner who worked out of his home and was mostly associated with corporation filings. When interviewed, the attorney acknowledged drafting the will. He said he knew nothing about the relationship between Carol and Bob, just that Carol was a casual acquaintance who asked him to draft the will for Bob. He said it was not signed in his presence. We interviewed the witness who confirmed that Carol was a friend and he witnessed Bob’s signing. When we conducted his background investigation, we found a history of financial reversals, civil lawsuits and drunken driving convictions. The will was looking even more suspicious.
As for the actual document, an obvious copy, we did not have to retain a forensic document examiner. We retrieved a number of Bob’s signatures from the local Recorder’s office and the signature on the will was an exact copy from the deed of his home. No matter how careful our handwriting, no two of our signatures are exactly alike. The will was a fake. When confronted with the results of the investigation, Carol stormed out of our client’s office, never to be heard from again.
1 A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech, frequently used by comedians, in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is unexpected or surprising and requires one to reinterpret the first part. Another example: “You’re never too old to learn something stupid,” perhaps applicable to Carol.
When you need help unraveling a suspicious estate or probate matter, call Trace Investigations at 800-310-8857.