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When an Heir Is Abusive

Sometimes family members take advantage of people who are vulnerable. One way that they do so is financial abuse. A recent case in Washington has ruled what happens when the abuser is named as an heir in the will.

As mentioned in a recent Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog, titled New Case: In Re Estate of Evans,the Washington State Court of Appeals recently decided the case of In Re Estate of Evans. In the Evans case, the deceased’s child had financially abused the deceased. Under Washington law anyone who financially abuses a “vulnerable adult” cannot inherit under that person’s will. Many states have similar laws. What makes this case interesting is that the court applied Washington’s anti-lapse statute to determine who inherited the abuser’s share of the estate.

In the context of estate law, an anti-lapse statute provides that if someone is left something in a will and predeceases the person who made the will, then the inheritance passes to the descendants of the person to whom the will left the property. In the Evanscase, the abuser’s children received the inheritance. In effect, the court interpreted the will as if the abuser had passed away before the abused.

An important point for everyone to take away from this is the existence of the anti-lapse statute. If your will leaves something to someone who has passed away, then you need to think about whether you want that person’s descendants to receive the inheritance. Unless your will explicitly states otherwise, then they will. If that is not your desire, then you should have a new will drawn up. In reality, in the event one of your beneficiaries predeceases you, then you ought to consider drafting a new will just to clear up potential future confusion.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (August 11, 2014) New Case: In Re Estate of Evans

 

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