We are circling back to our Jan. 24 post and our discussion of slayer statutes. The principle is fairly simple: Criminals should not profit from their crimes — especially if the crime is a murder.
The subject came up when we saw a news item from New York. The murder occurred in New York, but Pennsylvania’s slayer statute is very similar to New York’s. The victim in this case was hedge fund founder Thomas Gilbert Sr. His son, Thomas Jr., has been charged. His son is also one of his father’s heirs.
The team that came up with these laws had a difficult decision to make. If an heir murders the testator, should the law operate as if the heir never existed or as if he died before the testator?
What’s the difference? Say a man has a wife, a son and a daughter. In the first scenario, the two children have no families of their own. After the daughter dies, the father dies without a valid will. The estate is divided between his remaining heirs, his son and his wife. It doesn’t matter if the law considers the daughter as never having existed or as predeceasing her father, because the outcome is the same.
If, however, the daughter had a child before dying, the outcome is different. If she never existed, the child never existed. He inherits no part of her share of the estate. If she predeceased her father, her heir or heirs inherit her share.
With the slayer statute, public policy apparently called for the higher road. The killer predeceases the victim, and the killer’s heirs have the killer’s share. Remember, this is how things would work if the testator/victim died without a will.
What if the killer is the named beneficiary on the victim’s life insurance policy?
Go online and rent “Double Indemnity.” We’ll get back to this next week.
Source: Investment News, “Shocking NYC murder highlights need for estate planning contingencies,” Darla Mercado, Jan. 16, 2015