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Disaster Looms Without an Estate Plan

In Beckwith v. Dahl (May 3, 2012), the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, joined the majority of states in recognizing the tort of intentional interference with expected inheritance (IIEI).

In the darker and more unfortunate corners of estate law, one doesn’t need to look far to find family squabbles, double-crossing, and intrigue. Accordingly, in a majority of states the courts have a term to describe those who would throw a monkey wrench into an inheritance. It is the tort of “Intentional Interference with Expected Inheritance,” or IIEI for short.

The tort of IIEI was been recently recognized in California with the case of Beckwith v. Dahl (May 3, 2012). In fact, of the 42 states to consider the tort, 25 states have adopted it. While that is a majority, vast stretches of the country still have no specific legal context for the types of unfortunate fights that cripple so many families and level so many estates.

Still, it should be noted that the vast majority of estate difficulties giving rise to IIEI issues result from unplanned estates. I recommend reading the analysis of this California case in a recent Forbes article titled “California Joins Majority Of States In Recognizing Tort — Intentional Interference With Expected Inheritance.” The Beckwith case is yet one more example of a will never being committed to paper. In that case, the would-be planner had very specific concerns to address in the form of a same-sex relationship. However, due to his lack of estate planning, his partner was disinherited due to the prevarications of a family member and certain legal defaults.

In general, the teaching point here is the old saying that “failing to plans means planning to fail.”

Reference: Forbes (June 30, 2012) “California Joins Majority Of States In Recognizing Tort — Intentional Interference With Expected Inheritance

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