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Home / Courts / N.C. Court of Appeals / Tort/Negligence – Trusts & Estates – Tortious Interference with Expected Inheritance – Breach of Fiduciary Duty – Accounting

Tort/Negligence – Trusts & Estates – Tortious Interference with Expected Inheritance – Breach of Fiduciary Duty – Accounting

Hauser v. Hauser (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-055-17, 13 pp.) (Mark Davis, J.) Appealed from Forsyth County Superior Court (John Craig III, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: North Carolina does not recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with an expected inheritance during the lifetime of the testatrix.

We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint.

Plaintiff alleges that, while her sister-in-law, defendant Robin Hauser, was caring for plaintiff’s mother, Hilda Hauser, $20,000 was withdrawn from Hilda’s trust. Subsequently, Hilda named plaintiff’s brother, defendant Darrell Hauser, as Hilda’s attorney-in-fact, replacing plaintiff. Hilda also created a new trust and quitclaimed her home to Darrell and an attorney as trustees of the new trust.

Plaintiff filed suit, alleging constructive fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and tortious interference with an expected inheritance. Hilda was still alive.

Tortious Interference

Plaintiff alleges that defendants’ wrongful acts in causing the withdrawal of Hilda’s funds have depleted the assets of Hilda’s eventual estate, thereby diminishing plaintiff’s expected inheritance. Although plaintiff cites several North Carolina cases, none of them stand for the proposition that an expected beneficiary can bring such a claim during the lifetime of the testator.

Holt v. Holt, 232 N.C. 497, 61 S.E.2d 448 (1950), remains the law. It said that “a child has no standing at law or in equity either before or after the death of his parent to attack a conveyance by the parent as being without consideration, or in deprivation of his right of inheritance.”

In this case, all of the allegations in the complaint relate to property owned by Hilda rather than by plaintiff. Plaintiff filed this action solely on her own behalf.

This court lacks the authority to expand the limited cause of action recognized in Bohannon v. Wachovia Bank & Tr. Co., 210 N.C. 679, 188 S.E. 390 (1936) (“If the plaintiff can recover against the defendant for the malicious and wrongful interference with the making of a contract, we see no good reason why he cannot recover for the malicious and wrongful interference with the making of a will.”), and its progeny in the manner requested by plaintiff in this case. The trial court properly dismissed this claim.

Other Issues

Plaintiff lacks standing to bring a claim on her own behalf alleging that defendants breached a fiduciary duty owed by them to Hilda.

With no copy of the power of attorney naming Darrell as Hilda’s attorney-in-fact in the record, we are not at liberty to simply assume that it contains a provision entitling plaintiff to an accounting of Darrell’s actions as attorney-in-fact. Plaintiff has also failed to cite any legal authority that her present status as a potential beneficiary of Hilda’s estate would – without more – entitle her to an accounting of Darrell’s actions as Hilda’s attorney-in-fact.

Affirmed.


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