California has joined the majority of states in allowing individuals to file a lawsuit against those who have intentionally and wrongfully interfered with their expected inheritance. The new tort of Intentional Interference with Expected Inheritance (“IIEI”) came about from the recent California appellate court case of Beckwith v. Dahl (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 1039 (“Beckwith”).
In Beckwith, decedent Marc Christian McGinnis (“Marc”) and his partner Brent Beckwith (“Brent”) had been in a committed same-sex relationship for approximately ten years. Prior to his death, Marc had shown Brent a will which Marc had drafted and which left half of Marc’s assets to Brent and half to Marc’s sister, Susan Dahl (“Susan”). Though Susan and Marc had been estranged for some time, Susan was made aware of Marc’s intentions prior to his death. When Marc was on his deathbed, a copy of that specific will could not be located and it was agreed that Brent would draft a new will which had the same distribution provisions as the previous will. Susan was made aware of this and agreed to the drafting of the new will. Unfortunately, Marc passed away before he could execute the new will.