A good faith contest between two wills does not amount to a theft and would not be prosecuted as one. But the legislature has expressed its intent in clear terms: when an actor appropriates property knowing its owner cannot give effective consent to the transfer, the appropriation—or attempted appropriation—is a criminal offense, not a probate matter.  476 S.W.3d 640.

In a case that resulted in the bad person being found guilty of capital murder when she murdered the testator, she was also found guilty of attempted theft when she procured a will and filed it for probate. The court said”

Several State’s witnesses testified that Patterson (1) upon finding out about Martin’s fortune, expressed a significant interest in accessing and controlling Martin’s finances, who at all relevant times remained merely the spouse of a patient (or former patient) at her facility; (2) quickly befriended Martin, who several witnesses depicted as friendly and jurors could infer as lonely; (3) removed Martin’s son from Penny’s primary point of contact after he attempted to transfer Penny out of Comfort’s care and accompanied Martin to his bank to withdraw his money within the same week; (4) within two months of knowing Martin, convinced him to withdraw an excess of $300,000 for her to hold for him, and bank employees testified that he had never made such large withdrawals; (5) although unprompted, repeatedly attempted to diffuse any concerns of elder exploitation to an extent which roused suspicions of multiple testifying witnesses; (6) made changes to Martin’s stockholder account without his authorization; (7) orchestrated Martin’s will change and other legal documents, designating herself as the primary agent for all his affairs; (8) denied her involvement in Martin’s financial matters after his death, though she had already probated his will; (9) declined to provide Martin’s son with an unredacted will and refused to allow Mark into the home, though she knew he was the intended beneficiary of the residence; (10) misrepresented or lied to Martin regarding his son’s intentions with Martin’s finances and other affairs, purposefully fueling hostility between Martin and his son, and (11) was a party to Martin’s murder.
Having viewed the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, we conclude that, this evidence is sufficient to show Patterson intentionally attempted to deprive Martin’s rightful heirs from an inheritance. See id.; Braughton, 569 S.W.3d at 608; Hooper, 214 S.W.3d at 13. Therefore, the jury had sufficient evidence from which to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Patterson attempted to commit the offense of theft in the aggregate amount of $200,000 or more. See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. §§ 15.01(a), 31.03; see Padilla, 326 S.W.3d at 200. We overrule Patterson’s last issue on appeal. 13-18-00030-CR.

Contesting a will in Texas

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