Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Because murder-suicide is a common disaster, the simultaneous death statute applies. In Texas, a husband killed his wife then shot himself, dying several hours later. The couple’s wills provided cash bequests to certain individuals if the spouses died in a “common disaster,” and other bequests to individuals if one spouse did not survive the other by ninety days. A Texas intermediate appellate court affirmed the determination by the trial court that the spouses did die as the result of a “common disaster” because the fatal shots were “fired in one episode” even though the husband did not die at once, and that therefore the simultaneous death provision applied. The court also affirmed the determination that the ninety-day survival requirement was sufficient to exclude operation of the state survival statute. Stephens v. Beard, 428 S.W.3d 385 (Tex. App. 2014).
Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.