The "Awkward Tort": Tortious Interference with an Expected Inheritance

In a June post, we let you know that, although suing for Tortious Interference with an Expected Inheritance is not an option in Virginia and is currently not an option in Maryland or in D.C., prospective beneficiaries in these jurisdictions can pursue other legal routes when they believe that someone has meddled in their inheritance.  As it turns out, those other routes are the preferred routes, at least in the eyes of two Harvard Law professors who argue that the tort, called Tortious Interference with an Expected Inheritance, should be abolished all together.

In their article, Torts and Estates: Remedying Wrongful Interference with Inheritance (still in draft form but scheduled for publication next year), the Professors urged that “[b]ecause the interference-with-inheritance tort changes the rules under which such claims are litigated and offers different remedies, recognition of the tort is in truth recognition of a rival legal regime for addressing these same problems.”  They explain that inheritance law has developed over time to handle issues that are unique to estate litigation – like the deceased’s inability to speak for him or herself – a problem that tort law is not similarly equipped to handle.  The Professors also pointed out that the tort is “awkward,” and that it is contrary to fundamental principles of both tort and inheritance law.

The American Law Institute (“ALI”), the organization that promulgates uniform laws which may be adopted by, or be persuasive among the states, will have the opportunity to review the tort in the next few years, which is one reason why the Professors (both ALI members) decided to write on the subject.  No matter what happens, remember that there are options if you suspect that a friend or loved one was prevented from making the dispositions he or she truly wanted to make.  Moreover, there are ways to make sure that your estate plan is not subject to challenge at your death.  Give us a call at (301) 468-3220or email us at to discuss how to proceed or how to bullet-proof your estate plan.

-  Gary Altman, Esq. and Coryn Rosenstock

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