Dover woman’s claim of forged signature on probate petition denied by county (ME)

DOVER — A city woman claims her signature was forged on a filed petition for probate following the death of her mother-in-law at Riverside Nursing Home.

But the county states not only is the allegation of the forgery not true, but there is no motive to commit such an act.

When Anita Paluchniak’s mother-in-law, Donalda Viel, died at the Strafford County run nursing home last summer, there was roughly $1,500 in the woman’s account. It was when Paluchniak went to file a petition for probate, she says, she found her signature already on the paperwork.

She filed suit against the home, but it has since been retracted because it was found to be too costly.

“It wasn’t that I was trying to get money,” said Paluchniak. “I just wanted them to stop signing names to records.”

Now Paluchniak questions if others have had their name signed to court documents without their knowing.

“Whoever signed my signature should have been held accountable. If I sign somebody else’s name to a legal paper I would’ve been arrested. People go to court and jail. I just don’t think it’s right that they did that.”

But County Administrator Ray Bower said not only is the alleged forgery untrue, but there is no cause to falsely sign anyone’s name in the process.

Viel’s stay at Riverside was covered by Medicare, with a $70,000-80,000 lien by the state for her care.

Bower said in order for the Riverside to comply with Medicare/Medicaid regulations, paperwork must be filed with the probate court within 30 days of a resident’s death. The filing needs to be done for the court to disburse funds.

“There are four things that can happen to that money,” said Bower. “It can go to the surviving spouse, a bill of final illness, or to cover funeral expenses. If none of those first three things exist, the state has a Medicaid lien on that money.”

He added that a signature by an executor is not required for the filing.

As a result, Bower said, there is no incentive for someone to forge a signature on the petition.

The case has come under review by county attorney Thomas Velardi.

Velardi said he reviewed the documents involved in the case to determine whether the signature could be a forgery and what would be a possible motive. He said he does not believe the signature is a forgery and if it were, there’s no motive for doing so.

“The funds we’re talking about will go to the state of New Hampshire,” Velardi said. “There’s no financial gain to be had to put this person’s name on this form.”

Bob Fisher, who served as Paluchniak’s lawyer in the suit, contends the signature was indeed forged, although he could not speak to a motivation.

“I caught them (the county) in a lie. This is a governmental agency lying to a court,” he said. “I don’t know why they would do it.”


Dover woman’s claim of forged signature on probate petition denied by county
Scott E. Kinney
June 8, 2011
Foster’s Daily Democrat