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Marshall v. Marshall

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant, E. Pierce Marshall is the son of J.Howard Marshall. Marshall, a senior citizen and one of the wealthiest men in Texas married plaintiff, Anna Nicole Smith who was 24 years old. Marshall promised to give the plaintiff one half of his wealth, but his son committed several acts while Marshall was alive to prevent Smith from receiving his money.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. To prove substantiate a claim of tortuous interference with expectrancy, the plaintiff must prove (1) the existence of an expectancy, (2) a reasonable certainty that the expectancy would have been realized but for the interference; (3) intentional interference with that expectancy; (4) tortuous conduct involved with the interference; and (5) damages.

    Facts. Marshall promised to leave his wife, plaintiff, one half of his inheiritance. Up until the time that he died, he gave his wife generous gifts. The defendant restricted the plaintiff’s access to her husband’s money. When Marshall was terminally ill, the defendant purchased deferred annuities on his life to deplete Marshall’s assets. The defendant destroyed, backdated, altered, or perepared and presented to Marshall documents under false pretenses. The court ofund that the defensdant committed these acts to prevent Marshall from creating a will in his wife’s favor and to avoid the legal consequence of important dates including his marriage to plaintiff. The defendant relied upon the expertise of an estate planning lawyer when to carry out the scheme.

    Issue.
    Whether plaintiff had an expectancy of Marshall’s assets when he promised during his lifetime to give her one half of his inheritance and made gracious gifts to her while he was alive?

    Whether defendant tortiously interfered with plaintiff’s expectancy of a portion of Marshall’s inheiritance when he (1) depleted Marshall’s assets by purchasing annuities when Marshall was seriously ill, (2) restricting plaintiff’s access to Marshall’s income, (3) destroying, backdating, and altering documents, (4) and preparing and presenting documents to Marshall under false pretenses, and (5) using an estate planning lawyer’s advice when carrying out all of the above actions.

    Held.
    Yes. The plaintiff had a financial expectancy of the testator’s estate because he promised to give the plaintiff a certain amount of his inheirtance and he made generous gifts to her while he was still living, and he was unable to create a valid will due to the defendant’s fraudulent acts.

    Yes. The defendant’s actions here amounted to torturous interference with expectancy where Marshall gave plaintiff generous gifts while he was alive and defendant consistently restricted plaintiff’s access to Marshall’s money. Furthermore, the defendant depleted his funds by purchasing unreasonable annuities, and fraudulently drafted, altered, and destroyed financial documents to prevent plaintiff from receiving money. The defendnant’s actions were atrocious and done within his full knowledge in order to prevent Marshall from signing a will in the plaintiff’s behalf. Such actions also warranted punitive damages.


    Discussion. A court will find that tortuous interference with expectancy exists where an individual (1) promises to give another a certain amount at death but gave similar gifts during his lifetime and (2) the evidence shows that the liable party committed fraudulent or coercive physical acts to prevent the testator from making such a gift.


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