On May 26, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court refused to recognize the existence of a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance rights. Kinsel v Lindsey, 15-0403, 2017 WL 2324392 (Tex. May 26, 2017). Many Texas courts have long considered this to be a viable cause of action since the 1987 decision of King v. Acker, 725 S.W.2d 750 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, no writ). In that case, the decedent’s widow forged a power of attorney to transfer stock from decedent to her while the decedent was still alive and in a coma. After the death of decedent, a temporary administrator was appointed to recover the stock for the benefit of decedent’s estate. This caused the estate to incur additional expenses. The decedent’s children and mother who were beneficiaries of the estate sued the decedent’s widow for tortious interference with their inheritance rights. The King court upheld the jury’s verdict for actual and punitive damages based upon the widow’s tortious interference with the inheritance rights of decedent’s children and mother.
Now, 30 years later, the Texas Supreme Court in Kinsel v. Lindsey, supra, determined that there is no cause of action in Texas for tortious interference with inheritance rights. Does this mean that heirs who have been wrongfully cheated out of their inheritance no longer have a remedy? No, it just means that they will have to resort to more traditional causes of action like a will contest asking a court to set aside a will that has been procured by undue influence or fraud. However, even the Kinsel court seems to accept that, absent a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance, there may be times when the heirs will not have a remedy to recover all the damages caused by someone who wrongfully interferes with inheritance rights.