Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Oklahoma courts decline to recognize action for tortious interference with an expectation of inheritance

On April 12, 2013, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals announced that it would not recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with an expectation of inheritance.  Miller v. Johnson, 2013 OK CIV APP 59, ___ P.3d ___ (mandate issued).

The decedent Herbert Frederic Miller ("Fred") executed a will in 2011 benefiting his son, his daughter ("Martha"), and one of his two step-sons.  The omitted step-son was deceased at the time.

The decedent's son ("Chris") and step-son ("Jon") objected to the will on the basis of undue influence, arguing in favor of a 2004 will that omitted Martha and included the deceased step-son.  Chris and Jon alleged that Fred's lifelong friend, Markham P. Johnson Jr. ("Mark"), had unduly influenced Fred to update his will to include Martha.

In September 2012, the District Court of Tulsa County found in favor of Chris and Jon, setting aside the 2011 will.  That decision is currently on appeal.

Meanwhile, Chris and Jon filed a separate civil action against Mark, alleging that Mark had interfered with their expectation of inheritance.  The District Court of Tulsa County dismissed the action.

On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals held that "Oklahoma has never recognized wrongful interference with inheritance as a cognizable tort."  Miller, 2013 OK CIV APP 59, ¶ 8, ___ P.3d at ___ (citing In the Matter of Estate of Estes, 1999 OK 589, ¶ 16, n.2, 983 P.2d 438, 442 n.2).

On June 3, 2013, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to review the decision.