Monday, April 22, 2013
In In re Estate of Haviland, disqualification of abuser as beneficiary is not retroactive. In 2009, the Washington State legislature amended the state’s slayer statute to disqualify from acquiring property from a decedent any person who financially abused the decedent if the decedent was a vulnerable adult. The decedent died before the enactment of the statute but the contest over his will was in progress at the time of enactment. After conclusion of the contest, the personal representative filed a petition to disqualify the decedent’s widow as an abuser. The trial court denied the petition, finding that the “triggering event” for application of the statute was abuse occurring during the decedent’s life. The intermediate appellate court reversed, finding that the triggering event was the filing of the petition for disqualification and the Supreme Court of Washington affirmed. The court explained that the triggering event is the abuser’s attempt to receive property and that vested rights are not impaired because the abuser’s rights to the decedent’s probate property vest only when probate is complete.
See In re Estate of Haviland, No. 86412–8, 2013 WL 992042 (Wash. Mar. 13, 2013).
Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.