Lawsuit over $60 Million Bequest to Disgraced Religious Order

Legion of Christ is a Catholic holy order whose founder was found to have molested seminarians and fathered children. A wealthy Rhode Island woman left her entire $60 million estate to the order. Now, the Rhode Island Supreme Court will decide if that woman’s niece can sue the order.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

While it is not unusual for people to leave a portion of their estates to religious groups they support, it is unusual for them to leave their entire estate to a religious group, especially one that has been disgraced with a scandal.

However, that is exactly what a Rhode Island woman did when she left her entire $60 million dollar estate to the Legion of Christ, a disgraced Catholic order, as Fox News reports in an article titled “Rhode Island high court to consider dispute over $60M bequest to disgraced Catholic order.”

The issue before the court is whether the woman’s niece has standing to sue the Catholic order.

A lower court ruled that she did not, even though it found that the order might have unduly influenced the wealthy woman.

So, what exactly is “standing” anyway?

Standing is an important issue in all areas of law, including in estate law. If someone does not have standing, he or she cannot sue.

The original article does not state why the lower court ruled that the niece did not have standing. Most likely, the court either felt she would not have inherited the wealth but not for the holy order’s undue influence.

If you are thinking of suing over an estate, it is important to speak to an experienced estate planning attorney.

Contrary to law firms that advertise on late night television, not everyone has the right to sue over everything.

Please contact our office today at 239-225-7911 to schedule an appointment with Barbara M. Pizzolato if you are interested in protecting your legacy and need to create or update your estate plan. You may also wish to attend one of our free seminars.

Reference: Fox News (December 7, 2014) “Rhode Island high court to consider dispute over $60M bequest to disgraced Catholic order

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