CACI 2205 Intentional Interference With Expected Inheritance—Essential Factual Elements
California Civil Jury Instructions CACI
2205 Intentional Interference With Expected Inheritance—Essential Factual Elements
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] intentionally interfered with [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] expectation of receiving an inheritance from the estate of [name of decedent]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:
1.That [name of plaintiff] expected to receive an inheritance from the estate of [name of decedent];
2.That [name of defendant] knew of the expectation;
3.That [name of defendant] engaged in [specify conduct determined by the court to be wrongful];
4.That by engaging in this conduct, [name of defendant] intended to interfere with [name of plaintiff]’s expected inheritance;
5.That there was a reasonable certainty that [name of plaintiff] would have received the inheritance if [name of defendant] had not interfered;
6.That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
7.That [name of defendant]’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.
[Name of plaintiff] does not have to have been named as a beneficiary in the will or trust or have been named to receive the particular property at issue. A reasonable certaintyof receipt is sufficient.
Directions for Use
California recognizes the tort of intentional interference with expected inheritance (IIEI). (See Beckwith v. Dahl (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 1039 [141 Cal.Rptr.3d 142].)
The wrongful conduct alleged in element 3 must have been directed toward someone other than the plaintiff. If the defendant’s tortious conduct was directed at the plaintiff rather than at the testator, the plaintiff has an independent tort claim against the defendant and asserting the IIEI tort is unnecessary. It also must be wrongful for some reason other than the fact of the interference. (Beckwith, supra, 205 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1057–1058.) Whether the conduct alleged qualifies as wrongful if proven will be resolved by the court as a matter of law. The jury’s role is not to determine wrongfulness, but simply to find whether or not the defendant engaged in the conduct. If the conduct is tortious, the judge should instruct on the elements of the tort.
Sources and Authority
•“To state a claim for IIEI, a plaintiff must allege five distinct elements. First, the plaintiff must plead he had an expectancy of an inheritance. It is not necessary to allege that ‘one is in fact named as a beneficiary in the will or that one has been devised the particular property at issue. [Citation.] That requirement would defeat the purpose of an expectancy claim. [¶] … [¶] It is only the expectation that one will receive some interest that gives rise to a cause of action. [Citations.]’ Second, as in other interference torts, the complaint must allege causation. ‘This means that, as in other cases involving recovery for loss of expectancies … there must be proof amounting to a reasonable degree of certainty that the bequest or devise would have been in effect at the time of the death of the testator … if there had been no such interference.’ Third, the plaintiff must plead intent, i.e., that the defendant had knowledge of the plaintiff’s expectancy of inheritance and took deliberate action to interfere with it. Fourth, the complaint must allege that the interference was conducted by independently tortious means, i.e., the underlying conduct must be wrong for some reason other than the fact of the interference. Finally, the plaintiff must plead he was damaged by the defendant’s interference.” (Beckwith, supra, 205 Cal.App.4th at p. 1057, internal citations omitted.)
•“Additionally, an IIEI defendant must direct the independently tortious conduct at someone other than the plaintiff. The cases firmly indicate a requirement that ‘[t]he fraud, duress, undue influence, or other independent tortious conduct required for this tort is directed at the testator. The beneficiary is not directly defrauded or unduly influenced; the testator is.’ In other words, the defendant’s tortious conduct must have induced or caused the testator to take some action that deprives the plaintiff of his expected inheritance.” (Beckwith, supra, 205 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1057–1058, internal citations omitted.)
•“[W]e conclude that a court should recognize the tort of IIEI if it is necessary to afford an injured plaintiff a remedy. The integrity of the probate system and the interest in avoiding tort liability for inherently speculative claims are very important considerations. However, a court should not take the ‘drastic consequence of an absolute rule which bars recovery in all … cases’ when a new tort cause of action can be defined in such a way so as to minimize the costs and burdens associated with it. As discussed above, California case law in analogous contexts shields defendants from tort liability when the expectancy is too speculative. In addition, case law from other jurisdictions bars IIEI claims when an adequate probate remedy exists. By recognizing similar restrictions in IIEI actions, we strike the appropriate balance between respecting the integrity of the probate system, guarding against tort liability for inherently speculative claims, and protecting society’s interest in providing a remedy for injured parties.” (Beckwith, supra, 205 Cal.App.4th at p. 1056, internal citations omitted.)