A recent case by the Iowa Court of Appeals dealt with the tort of intentional interference with an inheritance. In the case, the testator died in 2015. She had three children, two sons and a daughter. She executed a Will in 2010 which divided her estate equally among her three children. She executed another Will in 2011 which left most of her estate to her son, Wayne.
After the 2011 Will was drafted, the other two children moved to file for a Guardianship and Conservatorship in regards to their mother. The other brother, Wayne, proceeded to have a Codicil drafted to the 2011 Will which provided that he would be reimbursed at $1,500.00 per hour if anyone contested the 2011 Will. The Codicil was signed a few days before the hearing on the guardianship and conservatorship. At the hearing, Wayne’s brother was appointed Guardian for his mother and a bank was named as Conservator for his mother. The court found that the mother suffered from moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.
After the mother’s death, Wayne filed a petition to probate the 2010 Will which was admitted to probate. Two months later Wayne filed a petition to set aside the probate of the 2010 Will and to have the 2011 Will probated. The other children objected claiming tortious interference with a bequest. At the time of trial, the 2011 Will was ruled to be invalid due to undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity. The court also ordered that Wayne was liable to his sister and her children for tortious interference with a bequest, and ordered Wayne to pay all estate attorney fees from his inheritance.
The Court of Appeals stated that undue influence was not coextensive with tortious interference and went on to state that the findings of the trial court were equivalent to the finding of “fraud, duress, or other tortious means”, which are necessary to prove a claim of intentional interference with a bequest.
A tort of intentional interference with an inheritance is a useful tool where a party uses fraud, duress or other tortious means to deprive another from receiving an inheritance from a third person.