Virginia high court backs charity in estate lawsuit.

A charity has successfully sued the Virginia attorney who drew up a will, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in “Case Summary on Will Beneficiary’s Cause of Action Against Drafting Attorney.”

The issue began when a will was drawn up at the request of a Virginia woman asking that all of her property be left to her mother with the stipulation that, if her mother passed away before her, then she wanted everything to go to a specific charity.

It turns out that the woman was predeceased by her mother. The charity expected to get her entire estate when the woman passed away, but there was an error in the drafting of the will since it only covered the woman’s personal property.

When the woman passed away, the charity received that property. However, her real property, since it was not covered by the will, had to be distributed by the law of intestate succession, so the charity did not receive it.

The charity won the case at the trial court level and the case made its way to the Virginia Supreme Court on the issue of whether the charity could sue the attorney. The court ruled that it could, based on the grounds that an oral contract existed between the woman and the attorney and that Virginia law allows standing for a third-party beneficiary of an oral contract to sue.

The court also ruled that the statute of limitations began to run when the woman passed away and not when the will was drafted.

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