Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Man Accused of Killing his Mother Could Still Benefit From her Estate

ImagesBrett Bednarz is accused of killing his mother and two others two thanksgivings ago, yet he still stands to inherit interest in two houses and cash from his mother's estate.  

Bednarz's mother, Beverley Therrien, died without a will.  Her estate consists of the house where she was killed, another house, and cash totaling about $35,000.  Because there was no will, state law dictates that the estate would be divided equally among her children. Brett's sister was appointed administrator of the estate and has been paying bills to on the two houses. There is one bill remaining unpaid--a $46,877 bill from crime scene cleaners.  The cleaners have filed a lien on one of Beverley's properties.  

If Bednarz is convicted of killing his mother, state law can prevent him from receiving anything from her estate, from receiving any property that he held in joint tenancy with his mother, and from receiving a payout from her life insurance policy.  In order for him to be excluded from all of these shares, an interested party has to raise the claim in the proper court.  Any challenges to the estate would be handled in probate court and a challenge to Bednarz receiving a payout from his mother's life insurance policy would be addressed in Superior Court.  

If Bednarz is acquitted of his mother's murder, he can receive all the benefits that the court finds him entitled to.  

Even though Therrien died without an official will, she drafted one in 2006 and her lawyer applied ot manage the estate and presented a copy of the will.  For a copy of that will to be accepted, someone would have to apply to the court for a hearing and present evidence that the copy should be accepted because the original was accidentally destroyed.  In the 2006 draft, Therrien designated her son as executor and primary beneficiary while excluding her daughter from receiving anything.  

While investigating the homicide, officers found that Therrien had an appointment to meet with her lawyer on December 1, 2010 to cut her son out of her will.  Her lawyer confirmed to the police that he had a meeting scheduled with her that day.  

See David Owens and Christine Dempsey, Accused Killer Could Benefit From Slain Mother's Estate, courant.com, Dec. 1, 2012.  

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.


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