Daughter Lacks Standing to Challenge Mother's Will While Mother Is Alive

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland holds that a woman does not have the standing to challenge her mother’s estate plan prior to her mother’s death. In the Matter of Andrea Jacobson (Md. Ct. Spec. App., No. 1741, December 6, 2022).

Amy Silverstone petitioned to become the guardian of her mother, Andrea Jacobson, following Ms. Silverstone’s estrangement from and disinheritance by her mother. Ms. Silverstone asked the court to set aside her mother’s estate planning documents – several wills, revocable trust agreements, and powers of attorney – that removed Ms. Silverstone and gave authority to Andrea Jacobson’s sister, Lisa Jacobson. She alleged that Ms. Lisa Jacobson unduly influenced her mother, who has dementia.

The lower court dismissed her undue influence claim and denied her motion to amend her complaint, and Ms. Silverstone appealed. Seeking sanctions, Ms. Andrea Jacobson and Ms. Lisa Jacobson cross-appealed.

On review, the court finds that Ms. Silverstone has no legal standing to challenge her mother’s will and trust because her mother is still alive. Since her mother is not yet deceased, she does not have a legally protected interest in her mother’s estate and a possible inheritance. As her mother had not yet passed, her case is not ripe for review, and she has no valid cause of action. Entertaining litigation about the wills and trusts of living people could waste the court’s time since living individuals can continuously update their estate plans, rendering judgments obsolete.

Concerning Ms. Silverstone’s challenge to her mother’s power of attorney documents, she has neither standing nor a cause of action. Maryland law allows interested parties to challenge the validity of a power of attorney document to protect incapacitated people from abuse. Yet Ms. Silverstone’s complaint fails to establish any wrongdoing by Ms. Lisa Jacobson.

The circuit court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting Ms. Silverstone’s motion to reconsider dismissing her amended petition. Her amendment was not timely and neglects the central standing issue.

When it declined to sanction Ms. Silverstone, the lower court did not abuse its discretion. Even if they could show that Ms. Silverstone acted in bad faith, the court could deny sanctions to protect its time and resources.

Given that her mother is still alive, Ms. Silverstone lacks standing for an undue influence case.

Read the entire case here.