Some of the most damaging and devastating types of forgery happen to smart, forward thinking people who go to their grave thinking that they have handled their last wishes in the proper and legal way. However, one uncontested forgery can devastate an entire generation of family members and the deceased person can’t defend against it… since that person is already dead.
Los Angeles, CA (Vocus) March 26, 2009 –-
Until the economy eventually turns around, there is a temptation for otherwise innocent people to act in desperate ways just to keep food on their tables and roofs over their heads. Court qualified document examiners are astonished by a growing trend in forgery that involves three documents that some people assume have been adequately managed: Their last will and testament, the beneficiaries listed on life insurance policies and retirement plans, estate plans and even suicide notes.
Bart Baggett, founder of the The International School of Forensic Document Examination has coined this type of forgery as “phony-ficiary.” Baggett says, “I think this type of crime is so widespread that we have to coin a new term to describe it.”
“Phony-ficiary” is defined as the crime of changing the beneficiary on a financial document such as a 401K, retirement plan, bank account, or life insurance policy with the sole intent of defrauding the rightful “heirs” of the money which was in held in that account. Usually, this type of fraud is performed before the account holder has died, but only discovered after the account holder has passed away, leaving the courts and lawyers to sort out the deception.
“We may be in a day and age when respect for the dead is being replaced by greed and forgery,” says Bob Baier, founder of Expert Document Examiner Web and one of the professors and mentors for the The International School of Forensic Document Examination. “Some of the most damaging and devastating types of forgery happen to smart, forward thinking people who go to their grave thinking that they have handled their last wishes in the proper and legal way. However, one uncontested forgery can devastate an entire generation of family members and the deceased person can’t defend against it… since that person is already dead.”
Even people who thought they had their papers in order are having their financial documents contested by both family and friends, according to Tam Kaiden, a forensic document examiner in Illinois Handwriting Expert Illinois. Her company Handwriting Services International recently visited Allstate Insurance involving a claim by a client who alleged that the beneficiary was illegally changed from the man’s ex-wife to the man’s current wife. The ex-wife was bringing forth the charges. Eventually the case was dropped, as the originals revealed no evidence of forgery. Allstate kept impeccable records and the original documents (from 1969) could be accessed and photographed by Mrs. Kaiden.
A very common scenario is when the last caretaker feels “owed something” and criminally changes the last will and testament or actually forces the sick and dying victim who is sometimes heavily medicated, into signing paperwork on their deathbed. The new ‘will’ essentially gives the entire estate to the caretaker and cuts out the rightful heirs completely. It is not surprising to see the bereaved families unable to defend the situation because witnesses are being paid-off and notaries are nowhere to be found.
When the validity of a person’s final documents are suspicious, anyone can hire a court qualified forensic document examiner to help determine which is the authentic version of a will, retirement plan or estate plan. You don’t have to hire a lawyer or even become involved in the probate proceedings. Sometimes you just want to know the truth. HandwritingServicesInternational.com lists some of the nation’s recommended handwriting experts all across the USA which will provide a forensic analysis, often for less than $295.
A skilled document examiner can even compare a suicide note to known handwriting samples to reveal if indeed it was an authentic suicide note, or a forgery to cover up a murder.
To avoid becoming victim of a “phony-ficiary”, Baggett advises a number of preventative measures:
1. “We recommend a last will and testament to be video taped and witnessed by an objective attorney while holding up and reading the will word-for-word on camera. This format is far more difficult to alter than a signature or initials on a paper document,” says Bart Baggett, from his Los Angeles based office.
2. Another option to protect yourself against “phony-ficiary” is to obtain multiple, unrelated notarized witnesses, particularly ones who are not part of the law firm with a vested interest in the will or any family ties.
3. Annually, request a full copy of all beneficiary forms and any changes to the policy for every financial account you own; 401K retirement fund, bank accounts, insurance policies, etc. Most criminals make these changes within one year of the person’s death, so do it as soon other people realize your clock is ticking.
If you question the validity of the final documents of a loved one who has passed away, turn to Bart Baggett, Handwriting Expert. You can find additional court qualified document examiners at Handwriting Services International.
About Bob Baier:
Bob Baier is a court qualified forensic document examiner who has appeared on such national media TV shows as Inside Edition and is a member of the National Association of Document Examiners. Bob is also a faculty member and mentor for the International School of Forensic Document Examination. Bob manages the Eastern region of Handwriting Services International’s offices which serves the entire Eastern seaboard including: New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Boston. His website is http://ExpertDocumentExaminerWeb.com and he can be reached at 888.460.3828.
About Tam Kaiden:
Tam Kaiden is a graduate student of the prestigious International School of Forensic Document Examination and manages the Midwest region of Handwriting Services International’s offices which serves all of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan-the greater Midwest. Tam has served a multitude of clients including insurance companies, attorneys, private citizens and family members contesting wills. Her website is http://HandwritingExpertIllinois.com and she can be reached at 630-295-8230.
About Bart Baggett
Bart Baggett is also a court qualified forensic document examiner who owns Handwriting Expert USA and is the founder and president of The International School of ForensicDocument Examination, a distance learning school which trains forensic handwriting experts worldwide. Mr. Baggett is considered the industry spokesperson for handwriting related stories as he been a guest on such TV networks as Court TV, CNN, and Fox News. He most recently appeared on Fox News Network and CNN’s Larry King Live. Media can research Baggett at myhandwriting.com/media