Bringing A Claim For Tortious Interference With An Expected Inheritance In Florida
When a loved one passes away, the time that follows can be challenging for a number of reasons. The loss of a loved one is devastating and can result in significant financial and structural changes to the family. If the decedent left behind a last will and testament then their assets will be distributed through probate, which can be a lengthy and costly process. All of this can be made all the more frustrating and difficult to navigate if you learn that your loved one’s last wishes were not truly honored and that you were cut out of the will or your expected share of their assets as a result.
What is Tortious Interference with an Expected Inheritance in Florida?
The sick and elderly are unfortunately a highly vulnerable population, and it happens too often that they are manipulated, pressured, or forced into changing their will or assets by someone with a vested interest. Caretakers, family members, friends, significant others, and spouses have all been guilty of manipulating the outcome of a will. When this occurs, regardless of the means, tortious interference with an expected inheritance has occurred. For instance, if a man has a will designating one-third of his estate to each of his three children, and his caretaker lies, drugs him, or threatens to stop caring for him if he does not change the will, then his caretaker has tortiously interfered with the inheritance that the man’s three children were expecting. It’s important to note that tortious interference does not only affect wills. Tortious interference can also occur with regard to other assets, such as bank account designations and deeds. Essentially anything that can be inherited can also be tortiously interfered with. In at least one case, even excessively contesting a will during probate purely for the purpose of generating legal fees to deplete the assets of the intended beneficiaries was found to constitute tortious interference.
How is Tortious Interference Different from Undue Influence?
Tortious interference and undue influence are both situations in which someone is pressured or manipulated into altering their last wishes. The difference lies in which court the claim is brought in and how the proceedings unfold. Undue influence claims must be raised during the probate process when the authenticity of the will is being verified. However, sometimes people don’t learn of the tortious interference until later, when it is too late to bring an undue influence claim. Tortious interference claims can be brought after the probate process has concluded. There are other benefits for bringing a tortious interference claim, too. For instance, undue influence claims are brought in probate court which lacks a jury. Tortious interference claims are adjudicated in front of a jury and are statistically more likely to go in your favor. Additionally, tortious interference claims allow you to pursue damages. A successful claim will provide compensation for the full amount of inheritance lost as well as for pain and suffering. In some cases, punitive damages may also be available.
Schedule a Consultation with the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray
If you believe your expected inheritance was tortiously interfered with and you are in need of legal assistance to get the inheritance and compensation that you are entitled to, contact a West Palm Beach estate planning lawyer at the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray and schedule a consultation today.