Maryland now recognizes a new cause of action, the tort of intentional interference with an inheritance or gift. Previously, Maryland recognized the tort of wrongful or malicious interference with economic relations, which involved contractual or business relationships between the plaintiff and a third party, but declined to expand that tort to apply to interference with gifts or bequests expected by a plaintiff. Although the object of the interference differs between the two torts, in both, the interference must involve wrongful or unlawful acts such as violence, intimidation, defamation, fraud, etc.
Under the tort of intentional interference with an inheritance or gift, a person is subject to liability for interference with an inheritance or gift if (a) he or she commits an intentional wrongful act with the purpose of interfering with a plaintiff’s expectancy of being a beneficiary of a will or recipient of a gift, (b) the plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of receiving an inheritance or gift, (c) the wrongful actions cause that expectancy to fail, and (d) the interference resulted in injury to the plaintiff. The interference must be with an ongoing or prospective relationship between the plaintiff and the expected donor and must occur before the end of the relationship, i.e., before the testator’s death. For example, intentional interference with an inheritance or gift would apply in a situation where a testator includes a bequest to the plaintiff in the testator’s Will and the defendant, through a wrongful act, causes the testator to write the plaintiff out of the Will.
For more information, see Darlene Barclay v. Sadie M. Castruccio, No. 30, September Term, 2019, Opinion by Adkins, J. If you have questions about this new tort, contact Keri Kemmerzell or any member of estates and trust practice group.