In the recent District Court decision of, McDonald v. Copperthwaite, the US District Court discussed whether a Tort for Interference with prospective inheritance was viable within the State of New Jersey. The Court explained that while the New Jersey courts have discussed the possibility of a claim for Tortious Interference with Inheritance, the New Jersey Courts have never actually recognized a cause of action in this regard. The few cases which addressed a potential claim for Tortious Interference with Inheritance have all held that such a claim is barred if an adequate remedy in Probate Court exists to remedy the alleged injustice. In this regard, the Courts have explained that all controversies involving Wills, Trusts, and Estates are within the jurisdiction of the probate court. As such, any challenges to a Will or Trust should be instituted in Probate Court.
Since adequate remedies typically exist in Probate Court to address any such alleged injustice, there has never been a finding by a New Jersey Court which recognized a claim for Tortious Interference with Anticipated Inheritance. Thus, despite creative pleading in the past to assert a claim for Tortious Interference with Anticipated Inheritance, no New Jersey court has actually verified the validity of such a claim. As a result, it is suggested that any action be commenced in Probate Court with proper pleading as opposed to a claim for Tortious Interference with Inheritance. It could be a critical mistake if a party were to found their entire case on this tort and ignore the other remedies which are available to them in probate Court. Should a party do so, they risk having their Complaint dismissed without the right to seek further redress. The statute of limitations set forth by Court Rules concerning probate proceeedings must be carefully followed so it is recommended that you consult with legal counsel as soon as possible if you have a matter of this nature.