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Unusual Will Contest before Death of Testator

In the category of “stranger than fiction,” a lawsuit has been filed in Arizona by a man who was cut out of his mother’s will. The problem is that she is not dead yet. Here in the San Dieigo Probate Court, will contests are filed but after the death of the testator (the individual who made a will before their death.)

The lawsuit filed by Robert Jaeger seeks $1 million in punitive and compensatory damages from his brothers and sisters on the basis that they interfered with an expected inheritance by persuading his mother to cut him out of her will. Jaeger claims that he took care of his mother for seven years and in return she promised to leave him her house when she died. His mother changed her will to leave her estate to her other children instead. The mother, Patricia English, says that her son was unemployed, spent her money, failed to find work, and became more and more demanding. In any case, she says, she had the right to decide who should inherit her house when she died. The siblings are fighting over English’s house which has $130,000 equity. She has no other assets.

In Arizona as in California, there is no cause of action for interfering with an expected inheritance. Only Maine and Florida have such causes of action while the person who executed the will is still alive. The court in Arizona has ruled however that the suit can proceed.

Mary Jo Quinn, director of the San Francisco Probate Department has said she has never heard of siblings squabbling in the probate court while the parent is still alive and capable. “Anybody can sue anybody,”she said, “but the trick is they have to prove it.”

Stay tuned.

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