Finally: Legal Recourse for the Fraudulently Disinherited
Some people will sink pretty low to snatch someone else’s inheritance for themselves – even lying to a dying family member to prevent him from signing his will. Marc Christian MacGinnis tried to finalize his will before having surgery. But he never got to sign it because his estranged sister, Susan Dahl, promised to have it drawn up for his signature…and then didn’t. After MacGinnis’ death, Dahl inherited his entire estate by default as his last living blood relative – including the half that MacGinnis had intended for his domestic partner, Brent Beckwith. A California Court of Appeal granted Beckwith half of the estate because Dahl was found guilty of interfering with MacGinnis’ final wishes in order to deliberately disinherit Beckwith. This precedent established a new tort claim known as intentional interference with expected inheritance. Most states already recognize it, but now in California, you can finally sue for your fair share of an estate if someone deceptively disinherits you. Beckwith v. Dahl (2012) 205 Cal. App. 4th 1039.
In 1991, Nelson Mandela freed South Africa from the shackles of apartheid, but even the greatest of peacemakers can have a hard time keeping peace in his family. In April, just two days after the 94-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate received hospital treatment for pneumonia, Nelson’s two eldest daughters filed suit against board members of two companies that manage Nelson’s multi-million dollar personal art collection. While his daughters are also members of both companies’ boards, they claim they took court action on behalf of Nelson’s 17 adult grandchildren, not for money, but only “to oust errant board members and correct procedural and governance anomalies of the two companies.” One defendant, George Bizos, was one of Nelson’s colleagues in the great struggle for freedom, has been Nelson’s attorney since the 1960s and spared Nelson from a death sentence. The great liberator could have structured his affairs so as to prevent war between his business partners and his daughters
About the author:
John O‘Grady, O’Grady Law Group, APC, is the Immediate Past Chair of BASF’s Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Section.