This article examines the various factual circumstances in which a tort recovery for interference with the expectancy of inheritance or gift might be available, either as the only possible remedy for the disappointed expectant person or as an alternative to a remedy at equity or at probate, and determines, in regard to each circumstance, whether a cause of action in tort should be available. This tort has received recent attention, especially in light of the substantial awards, both compensatory and punitive, in a California Bankruptcy Court, 253 B.R. 550 (Bankr. C.D. Cal 2000), and, on appeal, in the U,S. District Court for the Central District of California, 275 B.R. 5 (C.D. Cal. 2002), in Marshall v. Marshall (In re Marshall), to Vickie Lynn Marshall (aka Anna Nicole Smith) in her action against her stepson on the ground of tortious interference with her expectancy of an inter vivos gift from her then recently-deceased husband, J. Howard Marshall, II.
Beginning with a general introduction to the tort and to the primary issue vis-a-vis the tort, if and when the tort should be available to someone claiming that the tortious actions of another have deprived the claimant of an expected benefit by gift or by inheritance, the article then explores the various circumstances in which resort to the tort might be appropriate: tortious interference with an inter vivos gift; tortious interference with an at-death benefit such as being the beneficiary of a revocable inter vivos trust; tortious inducement of inter vivos transfers that diminish a testator's probate estate, thereby reducing a testamentary beneficiary's or heir's testamentary benefit; tortious inducement to execute, not execute, revoke or not revoke a will, thereby interfering with the claimant's testamentary expectancy.
Irene D. Johnson, Tortious Interference with Expectancy of Inheritance or Gift-Suggestions for Resort to the Tort, 39 U. Tol. L. Rev. 769 (2008), http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/476/.