Mississippi Recognizes Good Faith & Probable Cause Exception To A Forfeiture In Terrorem Clause

In Parker v. Benoist, Mississippi recognizes a good faith and probable cause exception to a forfeiture in terrorem clause.  The court’s summary reads as follows:

Bronwyn Benoist Parker and William Benoist are siblings who litigated the will of their father, Billy Dean “B.D.” Benoist, in the Chancery Court of Yalobusha County. In 2010, B.D. executed a will which granted significantly more property to William—and consequently, less to Bronwyn—than did a previous will that B.D. had executed in 1998. Bronwyn alleged that William had unduly influenced their father, who was suffering from dementia and drug addiction, into making the new will, which included a forfeiture clause that revoked benefits to any named beneficiary who contested the will. Bronwyn lost the will contest and her benefits under the new will were revoked by the trial court. In this appeal, we must determine whether Mississippi law should recognize a good faith and probable cause exception to a forfeiture in terrorem clause in a will. We hold that it should, and that Bronwyn has sufficiently shown that her suit was brought in good faith and was founded upon probable cause. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the chancery court that excluded Bronwyn from the will, and we render judgment in her favor to allow her to inherit in accordance with her fathers 2010 will. We affirm the chancellors decisions to permit William to pay attorneys with funds obtained from his fathers estate and to permit William to continue as executor, and we affirm the chancery courts decision to deny attorney fees to the estate.

See case at PARKER v. BENOIST – FindLaw.

Hat Tip: Wills Trusts & Estates Prof Blog.

 Posted by Lewis J. Saret, Co-General Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.