Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Iowa Supreme Court: Tortious Interference With an Inheritance Requires Defendant To Have Knowledge of Plaintiff’s Expectancy Of an Inheritance

Estate planningIn Buboltz v. Birusingh, the Iowa Supreme Court addressed the question of "whether a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the plaintiff's expectation to receive an inheritance from the decedent." 

Cletis Ireland died was an only child, had never married nor had children when she died at the age of 92. Her estate was mostly consumed of by her family's century farm "where she hahaha lived most of her adult life." 

In 2001, Ireland executed a will in which she would have split her farm into two equal shares and given them to David Buboltz, a cash rent farmer who had been leasing a portion of the farm for a number of years, and her cousin Edith Mae Maertens. 

In 2015, Ireland executed a new will in Iowa, in which she removed Maertens who had passed away, and Buboltz. The new will included Kumari Durick, the daughter of a family friend, as the beneficiary and Kumari's mother, Patricia Birusingh as the executor of her estate. 

Birusingh was married to Ireland's doctor. When Ireland could no longer perform daily tasks due to her age, Birusingh and Kumari began running errands for her and taking care of her. 

After Ireland's death Donna Reece, one of Maerten's daughters, and Buboltz filed a petition to have the 2015 will removed, alleging undue influence and tortious interference. 

The Iowa Supreme Court held that in order to establish that the defendants purpose was to interfere with the plaintiff's expectancy, the defendant must know of the plaintiff's expected inheritance "since a defendant ignorant of a plaintiff's expectancy could never have as her purpose an intention to interfere with it."

The Iowa Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the tortious interference claim due to the lack of evidence for the knowledge requirement. 

See Iowa Supreme Court: Tortious Interference With an Inheritance Requires Defendant To Have Knowledge of Plaintiff’s Expectancy Of an Inheritance, Probate Stars, June 19, 2021. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2021/06/iowa-supreme-court-tortious-interference-with-an-inheritance-requires-defendant-to-have-knowledge-of.html

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