The function of a will in Texas and elsewhere is to allow the maker of the will, called the testator, to designate who he or she wants to inherit his or her assets at death. The will usually appoints an executor, who administers the testator’s wishes and performs all of the duties required by law. The executor must take the will to the county courthouse and file it for probate. This also includes paying a filing fee and taking an oath of office to perform the duties according to law.
The role of the executor involves many concerns; he or she is the person who must make sure that everything is done ethically and legally. One thing that is rarely seen is an attempt by a family member to steal a decedent’s assets while a will is in the process of being probated or just before it is filed for probate. This kind of a scheme surfaced recently, as reported by authorities in a neighboring state.
Authorities indicate that they arrested a man for trying to steal two of his father’s properties by falsely signing affidavits in the courthouse and making unauthorized claims on the property. The court recently sentenced the man to supervised probation with a chance to have the charges erased if he successfully finishes the probation. The actual executor of the decedent’s estate appears to be his daughter, the arrested man’s sister.
She discovered that her brother filed false papers saying that their father had no will. Although the reported article is sketchy, the highlights make it clear that the man knew that the sister was in possession of the will, and he apparently tried to beat her to the courthouse to get his own papers filed prior to her filing the will for probate. If there is no will, a next of kin may register to manage the estate and list himself as the sole heir. However, in Texas and all other states, this is a highly unusual swindle, and there are many safeguards built into the system so that there is little chance that such a bold, albeit bumbling, type of scheme could possibly succeed.
Source: abqjournal.com, “NM man pleads to perjury in estate fight”, Jan. 13, 2016