Slayer Statutes: Killers Lose Everything

Last week I told you about the trend of Baby Boomers eagerly awaiting their inheritances from their aging, and presumably wealthy, parents. In order to anticipate the problem of heirs apparent taking matters into their own hands, many states have enacted so called "Slayer Statutes," which prevent killers from inheriting or otherwise benefitting from their misdeeds in any way.

For example, in Califonia:

250. (a) A person who feloniously and intentionally kills the
decedent is not entitled to any of the following:
(1) Any property, interest, or benefit under a will of the
decedent, or a trust created by or for the benefit of the decedent or
in which the decedent has an interest, including any general or
special power of appointment conferred by the will or trust on the
killer and any nomination of the killer as executor, trustee,
guardian, or conservator or custodian made by the will or trust.
(2) Any property of the decedent by intestate succession.

The remainder of Section 250 addresses different types of potential property at stake, and states that the killer will be treated as if s/he predeceased the victim. Thus the killer's family's rights may or may not be affected, depending on their relationship to the victim, according to the terms of the will or manner of intestate succession. In the event that a particular killing is not explicitly addressed, the Probate Code states that the situation will be treated in accordance with the same principles, i.e. the killer will likely be cut out entirely.

Further, the conviction for felonious and intentional killing is proof positive for the purposes of Probate. Absent any conviction, "the court may determine by a preponderance of evidence whether the killing was felonious and intentional for purposes of this part." In order to establish the culpability, the burden of proof is on the party seeking to establish that the killing was felonious and intentional for.

I've always thought that this was one of the more interesting nuances of Estate Planning.