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Mom Watches As Son Sues Siblings Over Her Estate

  • January 22nd, 2009

A son is suing his siblings over changes their mother made to her will. This sort of case is not uncommon except for one thing: their mother is still alive and apparently quite competent.

Robert Jaeger says his brothers and sisters persuaded their 78-year-old mother, Patricia English, to cut him out of her will.

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In a court filing that could set a legal precedent in Arizona, Jaeger is suing five of his siblings for interfering with an expected inheritance and is seeking more than $1 million in punitive and compensatory damages, far more than English's estate is worth. Her only asset is her house in Scottsdale, valued at $130,000.

Jaeger, the eldest son of eight children from his mother's three marriages, says English promised him the house because he helped take care of her for seven years. But English contends Jaeger became increasingly demanding and was eventually forced to move out. English revised her will, replacing Jaeger, who had been listed as sole beneficiary of the house, with four siblings as equal heirs.

"It's ridiculous and unnecessary and inexcusable," said English, who is not a party to the suit, in an interview with The Arizona Republic. "I'm not dead yet, and I don't plan on croaking soon."

"This is a Pandora's box for all senior citizens," said the Rev. Carl Ritter, a Dallas minister who is one of the siblings Jaeger is suing. "Nobody has the money to fight these situations. And, if he (Jaeger) wins, that means any elderly person . . . can be stripped of assets before they die." (Jaeger did not respond to the Republic's request for an interview.)

Only Maine and Florida allow claims for interfering with an expected inheritance while the estate owner is alive. Defense attorneys argued at a pre-trial hearing that if Jaeger believes that his brothers and sisters have exerted undue influence over English, he can contest the will after his mother's death.

But while acknowledging that Arizona's probate code does not expressly permit such a suit, Maricopa County Superior Court judge Bethany Hicks said this does not mean that the state legislature intended to prohibit it. She told the parties to prepare for trial. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 11, 2009.

To read the Arizona Republic article on the case, click here.

Last Modified: 01/22/2009

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