Tortious Interference with Inheritance

It is a classic scenario – the evil step-mother taking everything when her husband dies even though his children were expecting an inheritance. What do you do if someone swoops your inheritance, or your expectation of an inheritance, out from under you? Florida recognizes a cause of action for tortious interference with an inheritance or expectancy of such. See In re Estate of Hatten, 880 So. 2d 1271 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2004). This means that if an inheritance or the expectancy of an inheritance is diverted, destroyed, or something of the like by a third party, there is a cause of action by which the person who did not receive the expected inheritance may be compensated.

Tortious interference with inheritance is defined as, “[o]ne who by fraud, duress or other tortious means intentionally prevents another from receiving from a third person an inheritance or gift that he would otherwise have received is subject to liability to the other for loss of the inheritance or gift.” Restatement (Second) of Torts ยง 774B. There can also be many related causes of action to a tortuous interference with inheritance claim, such as breach of contract, undue influence, and unjust enrichment. A person who has been the victim of such wrongful conduct may bring an action for a constructive trust or damages.

In bringing a claim for tortious interference with inheritance, the burden is on the person bringing the claim to prove the case. To state a case for tortious interference with inheritance, a plaintiff must establish: (1) the existence of an expectancy; (2) intentional interference with the expectancy through tortious conduct; (3) causation; and (4) damages. See Schilling v. Herrera, 952 So. 2d 1231, 1234 (3rd DCA 2007). It is essential for the plaintiff to prove all of these elements. Recent Florida cases have helped to define the parameters of each required elements.

Not all jurisdictions recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance, but in Florida, if you believe a third party has intentionally caused you to not receive your expected inheritance, the attorneys at Chepenik Trushin, LLP can help.