Beyond The Will

My Sibling is a Narcissist: Strategies for Fiduciary Litigation

May 21, 2021


So, your sibling is a narcissist. Could this affect your inheritance under your parents’ estate plan? Here are some common intrafamilial disputes and possible strategies to avoid being disinherited as a result of your siblings’ bad acts.

After your mother dies, your brother (Narcissistic Nick) is formally appointed as Personal Representative of her estate. Your mother’s will nominating Nick as her Personal Representative gives him the power to sell property of the estate. Luckily, you and Nick are 50-50 beneficiaries under your mother’s will and the proceeds of those sales will be divided amongst only the two of you. You soon discover that Nick sold your mother’s automobile (estate property) and deposited the proceeds into his personal account. He tells you he has no intention of splitting the proceeds because he’s had a challenging year – he, apparently, is the only person who endured the COVID-19 pandemic – and he deserves the money more than you. The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code provides for a procedure and the grounds to remove Nick as Personal Representative. You, as a person interested in the estate, can petition the Court to remove Nick as Personal Representative because he has mismanaged the estate and failed to discharge his duties pertaining to the office. Nick, as Personal Representative, breached his fiduciary duties owed to you, and he failed to act in the best interest of the estate. His actions provide sufficient grounds for removal. If the matter continues to trial, you will need to prove Nick’s unsuitability as a fiduciary and cite to his bad acts as Personal Representative.

Within his “death bed” will, your father makes new and surprising provisions related to the disposition of his many pieces of real property. Your father gifts to your sister (Narcissistic Nancy) all of his real property and makes no allowances for you. You are confused, as your father always promised to split the real property among you and Nancy. You remember that Nancy moved in with your father just weeks before his death and that Nancy provided him with this new “death bed” will hours before he died. You question your father’s capacity at the time he signed this new will and whether he was subject to Nancy’s undue influence. You now want to litigate the validity of the probated will. You will first need to file with the Probate and Family Court an appearance and objection to the will. Within 30 days of filing your appearance, you need to file your affidavit of objections, stating the specific facts and grounds upon which you object to the validity of the will. Within this affidavit, you would cite to your father’s lack of testamentary capacity at the time he signed the will and Nancy’s opportunity to exert undue influence. There is a presumption that the testator had capacity at the time of signing and you will bear the burden of proof illustrating otherwise. Undue influence is challenging to prove, but can be by demonstrating that (1) an unnatural disposition has been made (2) by your father, who is a person susceptible to undue influence (3) exerted by Nancy, who had the opportunity to exercise undue influence, and (4) Nancy actually did use that opportunity to disinherit you to her benefit.

The family home is held in a trust created by your now deceased parents. Your other brother (Narcissistic Ned) is the trust’s sole trustee. You, Nick, Nancy, and Ned are equal beneficiaries of the trust. Ned decides, unilaterally and without informing his siblings, that he would like to purchase the family home for himself. He expressed on numerous occasions that, since he mowed the lawn once or twice, your parents owed the property to him. Ned enters into a purchase and sale agreement, with himself, as seller, in his capacity as Trustee, and as buyer, in his individual capacity. He “sells” the property to himself for $250,000 below fair market value of the property. Under the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code, Ned’s self-dealing and favoring of his own interests over those of the beneficiaries are clear grounds for his removal as trustee. You, as a beneficial interest holder, have the right to seek Ned’s removal, and you do so by filing for a petition for removal of a trustee with the Probate and Family Court. Within the petition, you cite to the reasons why Ned should be removed, including his breach of trust, his unfitness to serve as trustee, and that removal would best serve the interests of the beneficiaries.

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