Tortious Interference with Inheritance

I've heard it said that there is not a remedy for every wrong, but it has always troubled me that a person "done out" of an inheritance had no recourse.  Unless the person could fit themselves into the very limited circumstances of a third party beneficiary, most of these "disinherited" persons had no remedy agaisnt the person who wronged them.

There is new law in Pennsylvania and this is no longer the case.  In a tremendous victory for the disinherited, the PA Superior Court has affirmed the existence of a tort for tortious interference with inheritance.

"Sometimes people marry for money, and sometimes people kill for money. But when someone has done you out of an inheritance, can you sue for money? That, in a nutshell, is the question of tortious interference with expectation of inheritance."    -   Thus begins  Diane J. Klein in her article, "A Disappointed Yankee in Connecticut (or nearby) Probate Court: Tortious Interference with Expectation of Inheritance - A Survey with Analysis of State Approaches in the First, Second, and Third Circuits"   University of Pittsburgh Law Review Vol. 66:235.

She says of Pennsylvania at p.275: 

"In a pair of recent Pennsylvania Superior Court cases on appeal from the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, Judge Zoran Popovich has held that Pennsylvania recognizes the tort, although not in its Restatement (Second) Section 774B formulation.212 Instead, apparently relying on the 1904 case of Marshall v. De Haven, [58 A. 141 (Pa. 1904)] Judge Popovich has identified a Pennsylvania specific version of the tort, available exclusively when the tortious conduct prevents the execution of a will in favor of the plaintiff. This specific version of the tort remedies the specific injury of one who lacks standing to challenge a will, or would not benefit from such a challenge because the instrument under which he or she would benefit was never executed.. . . . until Judge Popovich, apparently no other Pennsylvania jurist regarded Marshall v. De Haven (or Mangold v. Neuman, or Cole v. Wells, other cases cited by Judge Popovich) as recognizing the tort. "

The two cases are: 

Cardenas v. Shober, 783 A.2d at 319-20,  and

 McNeil v. Jordan, 814 A.2d 234 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002).

The elements of the tort, as set for by the court in Cardenas, are:

     (1)     The testator indicated an intent to change his will to provide a described benefit for plaintiff,

     (2)     The defendant used fraud, misrepresentation or undue influence to prevent execution of the intended will,

    (3)      The defendant was successful in preventing the execution of a new will; and

    (4)       But for the Defendant’s conduct, the testator would have changed his will.

 

 

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