Inheritances can be wrought with controversy. Disputed wills, trusts, or other estate plans may lead to family members losing part or all of their inheritance. When a person believes that a family member or some other third party has wrongfully caused their inheritance to be reduced or eliminated, he or she may consider filing a claim for tortious interference with inheritance rights. Under Texas law, however, the Texas Supreme Court has never made it clear whether tortious interference claims are valid and the appellate courts remain split on the matter.
The case of Kinsel v. Lindsey was highly anticipated as it was believed the Texas Supreme Court would finally provide a definitive answer as to whether a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance rights exists. The complex case involved the sale of a ranch. After the death of the owner of the ranch, heirs challenged the sale, raising issues of capacity and tortious interference with inheritance rights by other family members and the attorney who executed the sale. Ultimately, however, the case left the matter unclear. The court found a constructive trust existed in the case, leaving no need to consider whether tortious interference with inheritance rights could apply. The Texas Supreme Court did indicate that such a cause of action could exist under certain circumstances.
While the legal community awaits an ultimate decision on the issue of tortious interference with inheritance rights, Texans are urged to take steps to prevent litigation after their death. Inheritance disputes often arise due to conflicting or inadequate estate plans. An experienced estate planning attorney will assist you with developing a comprehensive estate plan that will protect your intended heirs and your legacy.
Your estate plan may include a combination of a will, trusts, powers of attorney, and more. With advance planning, you can rest assured that your heirs will not face questions as to capacity, as was an issue in the Kinsel case. You are never too young or too old to make an estate plan, so contact an estate planning lawyer in your area to get started today.