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A bad seed indeed: There’s a fine line between slayer and heir p3

We are still talking about slayer statutes and what happens to the heir or beneficiary who is responsible for the death of the testator/grantor. As we have said, you cannot kill your father, be convicted of the crime and still inherit his millions. Pennsylvania follows the model rule by approaching these instances as if the slayer had died before the victim.

The story we have been talking about — the arrest of Thomas Gilbert Jr. for his father’s murder — is not the only high-profile case to shine a light on slayer statutes. The particularly gruesome murders of Florida businessman and Fontainebleau Hotel heir Ben Novack Jr. and his mother have posed some very interesting questions for probate courts. That’s for another post, though.

Slayer statutes apply when there is a will or a trust as well as when the decedent dies intestate. In our last post, though, we asked about another kind of transfer: life insurance payouts.

We have discussed in past posts the difference between life insurance policy beneficiaries and heirs to an estate. Your grandmother’s will may plainly say that her entire estate goes to you, but if she has named your lazy brother-in-law as her life insurance beneficiary? He gets the payout. The beneficiary form trumps the will. Life insurance and real estate transfers are considered non-probate transfers; they are not part of the estate.

“Double Indemnity” may be the only movie made with an insurance adjuster as the hero. Barbara Stanwyck and insurance salesman Fred MacMurray plot to murder her husband, to make it look like an accident and to live off the life insurance payout.

The insurance adjuster, Edward G. Robinson, suspects the worst and starts to dig. He knows that the policy will not pay the widow if she was responsible for her husband’s death. She cannot profit from her wrongdoing.

But who gets the payout? In this case, Stanwyck’s husband had a daughter. She is next in line for the payout. In real life, insurance companies may end up asking the court to decide who will get the payout.

While most states follow the model slayer statute, legislatures have tweaked definitions and some provisions over time. With just a step over the state line, someone convicted of manslaughter, not murder, could still inherit.

Source: Investment News, “Shocking NYC murder highlights need for estate planning contingencies,” Darla Mercado, Jan. 16, 2015

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