Fraudulent Concealment, Destruction or Alteration of a Will

Family dynamics can turn nasty, particularly after a parent or relative dies and a struggle for a portion of the decedent’s estate among family members looms.  What, if any, consequences are there if a person deceives others about the existence or content of the decedent’s Will?

The Texas Penal Code Section 32.47 establishes that:

  • “A person commits an offense if, with intent to defraud or harm any person, he, destroys, removes, conceals, alters, substitutes, or otherwise impairs the verity [i.e. “truth”], legibility, or availability of a writing, other than a governmental record.” [emphasis added].
  • “For purposes of this section, “writing” includes…a Will or Codicil of another, whether the maker is alive or dead and whether or not it has been admitted to probate.”
  • When the offense affects a person’s Will, it is a state jail felony.

A state jail felony, per Texas Penal Code Section 12.35(a), provides for a state jail term of not less than 180 days and not more than two years.  In addition to confinement, the offender may be fined up to $10,000.  So, serious consequences exist for any person who “messes” with a Will for purposes of defrauding or harming another.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC.  The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world.  The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.