Disinherited Daughter Takes Estate Under Intestacy Rules

Elder Law Answers case summary.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court finds that an estranged, intentionally disinherited daughter inherits under the intestacy statute because the will’s sole beneficiary predeceased the testator. In Estate of Giguere (Me. No. 2024 ME 4, May 23, 2024).

Linda Giguere changed her will after becoming estranged from her daughter, Hilary Barlow. Her original will listed her daughter as her successor beneficiary after her husband. She contacted her attorney and removed her daughter from her will but did not add a replacement beneficiary. When her attorney inquired about who she wanted as a replacement, she said she was not ready to decide.

Her husband, William Giguere, predeceased her and remained the only beneficiary of her will when she died. The will had no provision disposing of the estate if her husband predeceased her. Under the state intestacy statute, her daughter would inherit everything.

After Ms. Barlow applied to be the personal representative of her mother’s estate, Mrs. Giguere’s attorney petitioned to remove her as personal representative. The petition also identified William’s sons, Eric Giguere and Mark Giguere, as devisees.

The probate court found her will did not distribute her estate to her husband’s sons. Instead, it found the estate passed by intestacy to her daughter.

The sons appealed, arguing that the absence of a residuary provision was a scrivener’s error. They asserted that Ms. Barlow’s receipt of the estate would be illogical because Mrs. Giguere’s will stated that she intended to disinherit her daughter.

To have the court reform the will to benefit them, Mr. Eric and Mark Giguere must provide clear and convincing evidence that Mrs. Giguere intended for them to inherit her estate if their father died, despite a mistake in the will.

However, there was no scrivener’s error. Her attorney’s testimony showed that she understood the need for a residuary beneficiary and expressed that she was not ready to determine who that would be. There is no clear and convincing evidence she wanted her husband’s sons to be residuary beneficiaries.

If the court were to reform the will, it must conform to the testator’s intent. It is not the court’s role to rewrite the will.

The probate court correctly determined that the estate passed to Ms. Barlow. The will did not dispose of the estate because the sole beneficiary had already passed. Therefore, the rules of intestacy determine the heir.

Read the full opinion.