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Gloucestershire Business News

Changing will was mother's idea, court is told

A woman said it was her mother that brought up the subject of changing a will cutting out three other beneficiaries and making her the sole inheritor of a £100,000 estate, and that she was 'not interested really', a jury heard today.

Julie and Brian Fairs, 57 and 76 years old respectively, of Abbotswood Road, Gloucester, have denied forgery between 1st December 2016 and 25th May 2017 by creating a document purporting to be Mrs Williams' will.

They have also both denied fraud on 24th May 2017 by falsely representing to Kirstie Hopton, a wills and probate executive at Dee & Griffin Solicitors, that the document was the authentic last will and testament of Mrs Williams, thereby intending to make a gain for themselves.

On the fourth day of the jury trial at Gloucester crown court Mrs Fairs gave evidence in her defence.

The jury of seven women and five men had previously heard that Mrs Williams, left a letter alongside a previous will stating: "Because my daughter Julie has no children of her own. I do not want her husband or his family to benefit from my will."

Mrs Fairs said that in the past she and her husband had been on many holidays with her mother and stepfather Bill Williams.

She said there had never been any arguments between them about money in the past.

However she told the jury that her relationship soured with her mother after her brother Terence died.

Mrs Fairs said she had made contact with her and Terence's biological father, Stan Howitt, and this seemed to be the cause of a falling out with her mother.

"I had not done anything wrong," she said. "I had been up there on a Sunday morning, and in the afternoon I had a phone call from her, one thing led to another and she said I wish it was you that was dead and not Terry.

"It stayed like that for two to three years. We just did not speak."

Mrs Fairs said that she decided to try and re-establish contact with her mother following the death of one her friends at a young age.

"Two years before she died, I rang her up. A friend of mine had died only 49.

"Let bygones be bygones I said, this is stupid this is. That was it. We started talking.

"I would go over there, and then Brian, not Brian to start with."

Mrs Fairs said that once the relationship with her mother improved she would help her mother with day to day tasks when Bill Williams died.

She said that Mr Fairs would also do odd jobs around the house to assist his mother in law.

"Yes, he did a lot of maintenance work, mowing the lawn, anything that needed to be done he did it."

She denied a suggestion that her mother had asked a family friend, Frank Davies, to return wills he held, so that Mr Williams' death could be registered.

"That was not true," she said, adding she and her husband had not been involved in registering the death of the funeral arrangements of her step-father.

After Mr Williams death, the will of Mrs Williams held Mr Frank Davies three sons as sole beneficiaries, the court had previously heard.

Mrs Fairs said that she invited her mother over for Christmas Day in 2016, and her mother raised the subject of the existing will.

"She did speak about it on that Christmas. She brought it up. I was not interested really.

"She said what is point of leaving it to Frank's boys I have not seen them since Bill's death. All they do is come and take tools from my garage.

"I said 'I am not bothered Mum'. We just talked like that. I was not interested.

"She was insistent she wanted to change it and put me on the will. She mentioned it several times."

She said that her husband used a copy of the existing will as a template, and created a new document.

"I just left Brian to get on with it, make a will on her behalf, as she did ask him to do it.

"He went up on the computer, followed the detail on the old will, and that was it.

"I think it was January time."

The court heard that Mrs Williams' health began to deteriorate and eventually she had a one month stay in hospital in March 2017, before her eventual death in May 2017.

Mrs Fairs accepted that the 'witnesses' who signed the document purporting to be the will were not present at the time it was created.

She also accepted that her mother did not sign the document, and Mr Fairs 'copied and pasted it'.

She further accepted that the second witness actually signed the document after Mrs Williams had died.

Mrs Fairs said that in the last few weeks of her mother's life they had another falling out.

This was after she had been accused by other family members of stealing items and money from her mother.

"A fortnight before she passed away, Mary [Mrs Williams' sister] talked her into believing I was taking money out of her accounts.

"I gave back her cards and Mary took that over. Mary put it into her head that was what I had done.

"Our mum spoke to me about it on the phone.

"I said Mum I have only taken what you wanted, as I had phone calls every morning what she wanted from the shops.

"It was like a typical stitch up. They were sat there like a firing squad."

She said that they took the document that had been created to the solicitor's office without the intent to deceive.

"We just presented it to her [legal executive Kirstie Hopton]. I think Brian advised her he had made the will himself.

"She did question about the ink on the signature, and he told her he had copied it."

Ms Hopton made a subsequent phone call to her she told the jury: "She said the will was invalid. I said that's okay, just forget it. She was quite nice about it you know.

When she was later arrested, Mrs Fairs said: "Well, I was just in shock. We were being accused of all these things, and I just could not believe it.

"I didn't realise we were in so much trouble for it.

"I did not realise that you had to have them sign altogether. I did not understand that."

The judge asked her: "You believed by putting the signature on in that way, and witness signatures later would create an effective will?"

Mrs Fairs said yes.

The trial continues.

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