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What is Tortious Interference with Inheritance?


Navigating the loss of a loved one is always challenging. Dealing with the day-to-day necessary processes can be challenging enough. Add on to that the stress and confusion that blooms when one realizes that they are being deprived of an inheritance they had expected to receive. If you find yourself in this situation in Florida, you might be able to successfully argue there has been a tortious interference with an expected inheritance. If proven, you may be well on your way to receiving the inheritance, or its value.

While this article does serve to review general questions and answers pertaining to tortious interference with an inheritance, it is important to note that every situation is different. While this broad-strokes information will provide general information, consulting with an experienced probate attorney about the specifics of your own situation is always the best way to truly understand the nuances of your own circumstances, and to understand the strengths and challenges of your own case.

What is Tortious Interference of Inheritance?

Tortious interference of an inheritance occurs when a beneficiary who was intended to inherit from a decedent’s estate is, instead, denied that expected inheritance because wrongful action was taken by a third party. Suits in tortious interference of inheritance involve those who seek to establish that they were the intended recipient of an inheritance which was wrongfully denied to them by a third party, with the third party acting as a defendant against these claims. The court’s role in these suits is not to decide who “deserves” the inheritance – but look to the genuine wishes of the decedent, and seek to uphold those wishes. This can become complicated to decipher in cases involving fraud or duress, which will be discussed at greater length below.

Elements to Prove in Tortious Interference

To succeed in a claim of tortious interference with inheritance in Florida, the party bringing the suit must show that there was:

  • A legitimate expectation of inheriting from the decedent’s estate;
  • Wrongful interference with this inheritance by a third party;
  • A direct link between the interference with the inheritance and the wrongful conduct;
  • Financial or emotional harm was done to the petitioner as a result of the interference.

When Can a Tortious Interference Claim Start?

A claim of tortious interference with inheritance can only be brought before the court after a testator has passed away. This is because the “wrong” has not been done yet. A beneficiary’s inheritance from a decedent will only come after a testator’s death. If the testator is still alive, the case is not ripe to bring to court. There are other avenues you could potentially attempt to pursue concerning undue influence or coercion, that an experienced Florida wills and probate attorney could discuss with you.

How to Recognize Tortious Interference

You may need to consider whether you have a case of tortious interference if you believe there is evidence of any of the following:

  • Fraud: for example, a new wife lying to the testator about the beneficiary.
  • Coercion: improper pressure of threats to alter terms of the will.
  • Undue Influence: improper manipulation by caregivers, for example.
  • Defamation: a third party spreading false rumors about the beneficiary in order to influence the testator.
  • Misappropriation: An improper removal or allocation of assets that are meant for the beneficiary.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

Contact the skills Sarasota wills & probate lawyers at Suncoast Civil Law to discuss questions on your own case today.