Tiger King star denies allegations that late husband’s Will was forged

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Anyone who has seen the highly successful Netflix documentary Tiger King will have been drawn into the web of intrigue surrounding the fate of the late husband of one of the show’s chief protagonists, Carole Baskin.

In the programme, her zookeeping rival Joe Exotic, accused her of murdering Don Lewis more than 20 years ago but despite the frenzied speculation and Baskin’s strenuous denials of foul play, the circumstances surrounding his death have remained a mystery ever since.

Now, in a further twist to the tale, the Sheriff of Hillsborough County Chad Chronister has claimed that the document believed to be Lewis’ Will was “100 per cent forged” and his daughter is seeking legal advice on the matter. However, the statute of limitations in the US prevents any legal action being taken to due to lapse of time since the Will was executed.

Again, Baskin refutes the claim, stating on the Big Cat Rescue website that all documents relating to the Will were “authenticated by multiple firms and stipulated to be authentic by all parties to the conservatorship, including Don’s daughters.”

So, what is the legal position in the UK if an individual believes that a Will has been forged to their detriment and does an equivalent of the statute of limitation exist here?

You will probably not be surprised to learn that the Court regards an allegation of forgery as serious and so a high degree of proof is required. As a result, reported cases are few and far between. However, Supple v Pender was a splendid case, rivalling Tiger King for intrigue, which came before the Court in 2007 where the Will was found to be a forgery. In short, the deceased who was described as a tyrant, domineering and autocratic had a daughter from a brief liaison.

The judge described her as a “cunning, amoral, selfish and vindictive woman whose only thought was for herself”. Of her witness and fellow “executor”, he said his evidence was “so frequently incredible that I would not be disposed to believe anything that he told me unless it were corroborated by independent evidence”. However, even bearing in mind those views of the beneficiary and executors and the testimony of an expert handwriting witness who said that there were so many differences between the deceased’s genuine signature and that on the Will that she did not know which to highlight, the Judge said he would have found the Will to be genuine if he had believed the evidence of the witness to the Will. But he didn’t because his evidence was also unbelievable.

There is no limitation period in which you need to bring a claim alleging that a Will is forged. However, defences of laches and acquiescence may apply. Therefore, if you do find evidence that makes you think a Will is forged you then need to get on with bringing a claim or risk losing the right to do so.