Wills trusts and estates covered

A Texas case ends up in criminal charges when a will to probate is rejected by the court.

Eight days before wealthy Dallas business woman Mary Ellen Bendtsen passed away in 2005, a will was executed that left her entire estate to two antique dealers. One of the dealers submitted the will to probate the day after Bendtsen passed away.

Bendtsen’s daughter objected to the will claiming that her mother was incapacitated and not able to execute the will. The case became somewhat famous and was followed closely by those wishing to prevent elder abuse.

Eventually, the daughter won the case in probate.

The unusual thing in this case is that, after losing in probate, criminal charges were brought against the antique dealers for theft of property. They were convicted and sentenced to jail for submitting the will.

They appealed that decision.

The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog reports that the dealers have lost their appeal in “Texas Appeals Court Rules That Offering An Invalid Will Can Be Basis For Criminal Charges.”

The court ruled that ordinarily submitting a will to probate that is ultimately not accepted by the court does not constitute a criminal act. It is not a crime to engage in a good faith will contest.

However, in this particular case it appears the dealers had schemed for years to have Bendtsen change her will to give them her estate and were only able to do so after she became incapacitated.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Nov. 20, 2015) “Texas Appeals Court Rules That Offering An Invalid Will Can Be Basis For Criminal Charges.”

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Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.