When someone is expecting a gift or an inheritance, and another person uses some sort of means to persuade the gift maker not to make such a gift or will, the intended recipient may have a claim against this interferer for tortious interference.

What Needs to Be Shown to Prove Wrongful Interference with Expected Gift or Inheritance?

In order to sue for wrongful interference with expected gift or inheritance, the plaintiff needs to show the following:

1.  A reasonably definite expectation to receive the gift or inheritance;
2. The interferer's actions caused the plaintiff not to receive this gift or inheritance;
3. The interferer's actions were wrongful
4. The plaintiff suffered damages as a result
5. The plaintiff has no adequate probate remedy or has exhausted all available adequate probate remedies.

What Does It Mean to Have a Reasonably Definite Expectation to Receive a Gift or Inheritance?

To have a "reasonably definite expectation" means that but for the interference, the plaintiff would undoubtedly have received the gift or inheritance. This requires more than just a possibility of receiving the gift or inheritance, but does not require an absolute certainty.

Normally, it is not enough to just assume that because the plaintiff is a close family member. More solid proof is usually required to show that a gift or inheritance will be made to the intended recipient.

When Will the Interferer's Actions Be Considered Wrongful?

An interferer's actions will be considered wrongful if:

1. He or she acted with ill will or intent to cause the recipient not to receive the gift or inheritance
2. He or she actually used fraud, duress, or misrepresentation to interfere with the gift or inheritance.

What Are Some Examples of Interference?

Some of the more common examples of interference include:

  • Interfering with the making of the will or gift
  • Inducing the gift maker to alter a will or a gift
  • Concealing or destroying a will or documentation to a gift
  • Taking away the gift maker's property so not enough will be left for the gift or inheritance
  • Breaking a promise made to gift maker to convey property in trust to the intended recipient.

When Will Damage Not Result from Interference?

It is possible that the gift maker, in the absence of any interference, did not have enough property to make the gift or inheritance. As such, no damage would result to the intended recipient and no claim may be filed against the interferer.

What Are Some of the Probate Remedies That Must Be Considered First before Filing a Lawsuit?

Some of the remedies that the intended recipient should first consider include:

  • Will contest;
  • Proving the terms of a missing or lost will under the Probate code
  • Submitting a new will under the Probate code. 

Is It Difficult to Win a Claim for Wrongful Interference with Expected Gift or Inheritance?

It is often very difficult to win a claim against an interferer in these cases because it is very hard to prove that it was the interferer's actions that caused the gift maker to change his or her mind. Naturally, since there really is no need for an explanation for someone to make a gift or will, it is the same case when he or she retracts from making the gift or will.

Another reason why it is so difficult to win a claim like this is because proving fraud, duress, or misrepresentation is not easy. It can take a lot of time and money to gather all of the facts to support a fraud claim. 

Do I Need to Consult an Attorney?

If you believe you have been wrongfully deprived of all or a portion of your rightful inheritance, you must act immediately to protect your rights. If you believe the drafter of the will may have been incompetent, or unduly influenced by another person, you should also contact an estate attorney. A lawyer can inform you of your rights and preserve any possible legal remedies you may have. Additionally, if you are writing a will and wish to avoid possible will contests, a lawyer can help you plan and draft a solid will.