Sunday, March 2, 2014
Carla Spivack (Oklahoma City University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Killers Shouldn’t Inherit from Their Victims—Or Should They?, 48 Ga. L. Rev. 145 (Fall 2013). Provided below is the beginning of her article:
Almost all states have laws, called “Slayer Rules,” barring killers from inheriting from their victims. At first glance, the idea behind these statutes seems reasonable, indeed, morally obvious: killers should not profit from their crimes. This Article, however, suggests reasons why this age-old truism may not necessarily be true. Where murder and inheritance overlap, we often find family. When family members kill one another, the equities are often cloudy. The sociopathic child who kills a grandparent to hasten an inheritance is an anomaly. In reality, murders within a family are usually a product of that family's harmful, often violent, dynamics, from which, because of the failures of state and society, a family member sometimes can find no escape except murder. Most women who kill their husbands or partners do so to protect themselves or their children from violence. Most children who kill a parent act to stop severe and prolonged abuse by that parent; most other parricides are acutely mentally ill. Most mothers who kill their children suffer from postpartum psychosis, a severe mental illness with symptoms including visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions. In many of these cases, social, political, economic, and cultural factors have combined to block the suffering relative's escape, sometimes leaving murder as the only way out.
Once the tragedy has played out, resulting in a murder, a corpse, and a defendant, the legal system often fails to recognize or address the defendant's plight: it often bars effective defenses at trial, extorts pleas that stand in as guilty verdicts without reliably reflecting guilt, and offers defendants inadequate representation. Even defendants who bypass these obstacles and are found not guilty at a criminal trial may still fall within the reach of the Slayer Rules due to the lower standard of proof and different definition of intent in civil proceedings. Depriving such defendants of the decedent's estate compounds their vulnerability by depriving them of resources. In this context, it is far from clear that barring such killers from inheriting is morally or legally justified, or sound public policy. I explain here why it is not, and propose revisions to the Slayer Rules to address this problem.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Nina Aleksandrovana Novoshonova (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration) recently published an article entitled, Inheritance of Escheat by Municipal Units, (January 29, 2014). 20 years of New Russia Constitution: sources, theory and modern practice. Materials of All-Russian scientific and practical conference (25th of October, 2013). 262 p. PAGES: 224-227. Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:
The author analyses changes of civil code clause 1151 and justifies the necessity of special order of escheat inheritance by municipal units taking into account joint responsibility of official organizations in inheritance arrears.
Note: Downloadable document is in Russian.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Inherited money has its own unique challenges. Here are six tips for how to spend and save an inheritance:
- This money is different. Recipients of an inheritance may treat an inheritance different from other money. A conflicted relationship with the deceased may cause the recipient to disown the money or waste it away.
- Wait to spend. Estates can take a long time before they’re settled. Recipients should wait until the money is in hand before they go spending it.
- Write a wish list. A wish list allows a recipient to prioritize the may options newfound wealth brings while also giving them time to consider the most meaningful uses.
- Get insured. Besides car and house insurance, a personal liability policy is likely a necessity. Recipients should buy coverage for as much as they are worth.
- Follow the 10% rule. Don’t spend more than 10% of an inheritance. Invest the rest.
- Consider ongoing costs. Ferns require daily watering, while a cactus can go a month without. A new BMW might sound nice, but the insurance premiums, maintenance costs, and gasoline should also be considered. Think about a family vacation instead.
See Robert Pagliarini, 6 Tips to Spend Your Inheritance, Wealth Management, Feb. 14, 2014.
Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
James T.R. Jones (Professor of Law, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville) recently published an article entitled, Intestate Inheritance and Stepparent Adoption: A Reappraisal, Property, Trust and Estate Law, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Fall 2013). Provided below is the editors’ synopsis of this article:
Societal attitudes toward adoptions have shifted over time, and adoption statutes vary widely among U.S. jurisdictions. Unique challenges arise when drafting statutes that affect the intestate inheritance rights of adoptees. Drafters of uniform laws and state legislatures attempt to balance the goal of complete assimilation of an adoptee into an adopted family with the prevalence of remarriages and stepfamilies. This Article analyzes the intestate inheritance rights of adoptees in stepparent adoptions generally, against the backdrop of Kentucky law. Noting that stepchildren deserve a well-considered examination of their intestate inheritance rights, this Article offers suggestions for stepparent adoption statutes in Kentucky and nationwide.
Monday, February 17, 2014
John V. Orth (William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law) recently published an article entitled, “The Laughing Heir” What’s So Funny?, Real Property, Trust and Estate Law, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Fall 2013). Provided below is the editors’ synopsis of this article:
Death is inevitable, yet people often die without adequately providing for the disposition of their assets. In such cases, inheritance laws often provide guidance for the distribution of a decedent’s assets to relatives. Most states do not limit collateral succession—even among remote kindred. However, this Article questions whether the state, rather than the “laughing heir,” is most deserving of the windfall.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Fox Business Network is currently developing a new program set to debut this summer.
Hosted by Tracy Byrnes, Strange Inheritance will explore “real-life stories of unconventional inheritances.” Fox Business hopes this eccentric premise will present a compelling option for a business audience after hours.
See Dunstan Prial, Fox Business to Air New Primetime Program, ‘Strange Inheritance’, Fox Business, Feb. 12, 2014.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Descendants of an adopted-out heir are entitled to inherit. The intestate died without a surviving spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, nieces, or nephews. Thus, her sole heir appeared to be her great-nephew who claimed her entire estate. A complication arose, however, because her nephew had been adopted by her sister-in-law’s second husband. An assignee claimed that an alleged half-cousin of the intestate assigned to him 25% of whatever interest the half-cousin would have in the intestate’s estate. The trial court dismissed the assignee’s request for a bill of review determining that the great-nephew was the intestate’s sole heir. On appeal, the court affirmed. The court carefully examined the assignee’s argument that state law provides that only an adopted-out person retains the right to inherit from the biological relatives and that the right to inherit from the biological side of the family does not pass down to the descendants of the adopted-out person. The court rejected the assignee’s claim that this results from the omission of “and his descendants” in the mandate that the adopted person “inherits from and through the [person’s] natural parent or parents.” The court explained that the statutory section must be construed as a whole and in doing so, it is clear that adoption does not cut off the inheritance rights of the adopted person as well as those of the adopted person’s descendants. In re Estate of Forister, No. 04-00046-CV, 2013 WL 6086934 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Nov. 20, 2013).
Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.
As I have previously discussed, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died intestate, leaving less than $30,000 in his estate. Despite the size, Bernice King is facing a legal battle involving her father's estate. Recently, she released a statement hoping that the assets in the estate remain in the family. Bernice is fighting with her siblings who want to sell King's assets to the highest bidder. Opposed to the idea, Bernice was quoted in part saying, "Though I am unsettled at the prospect of losing these treasures, I am steadfast in my strength to protect them. I continue to pray for my brothers, especially that they will recognize that no amount of money can compensate for the priceless inheritance we received from our parents and our responsibility to advancing their legacies."
See Myfoxatlanta Staff, Dr.Bernice King 'Utterly Ashamed'By Sibling Legal Battle, Releases Statement, My Fox Atlanta, Feb. 4, 2013.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Concerned citizens in Nye County, Nevada, are voicing concerns over the lack of supervision of the public administrator’s office, which is in charge of handling the estates of intestate decedents, including entering their residences. Linda Bromell made an investigation request to District Attorney Brian Kunzi, claiming that after her sister died the administrator’s office failed to padlock her sister’s house, property went missing, and drugs were not removed from the home. After a year and a half, Bromell heard back from Kunzi regarding her request. Kunzi responded that there is not enough evidence to support the claims and there is little that commissioners can do in regulating the administrator’s office.
This is not the first problem with a public administrator that the county has had. In January 2000, Robert Dyer, the public administrator at the time, and his wife, Genie Dyer, the deputy public administrator, were arrested for looting estates.
See Mark Waite, Complaints Dog Public Administrator’s Office, Pahrump Valley Times, Jan. 24, 2014.
Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Viroshan Poologasundram (University of New South Wales) recently published an article entitled, Intestacy Rights of Widows in South Africa: Has Customary Law Been Opperessive? UNSWStudentLRS No. 14-01. Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:
For centuries a hybrid of British and Roman-Dutch law peacefully co-existed with African Customary Law. However, there has been growing concern for women’s rights as opposed to cultural autonomy. This has resulted in the South African Constitutional Court finding that African Customary Intestacy Law contravenes with the South African Constitution which promotes equal rights for men and women. Accordingly, customary law is not permitted to be practiced. The first part of this thesis explores the difficulties of identifying who is a widow for the purposes of intestacy. Nonetheless, this thesis analyses how western scholars have misinterpreted the effect of male primogeniture and polygamy as oppressive against women. The second stage explores the practice of polygamy and male primogeniture and how it has ensured the maintenance and up-keep of widows, who otherwise may have been forced to live in austerity. These benefits arguably outweigh the few cases where women have been mistreated. Furthermore, the thesis sheds light upon how many tribes such as the Bantu and Kwa-Zulu tribes require the male heir to consult the widow on how the estate should be run. The underlying theme focuses on how South African judges from a British or Dutch background do not have the requisite knowledge to pass judgment on the impact of African Customary Law on widows. In the British or Dutch culture intestacy law aims to protect the individual. Contrary to this, customary intestacy law protects the whole extended family. The next stage of the thesis outlines how customary law is still practiced in most tribes today, as they are unaware of the implications of the Bhe decision. It is suggested that the legislature initiate collusion between anthropologists as well as men and women from various Black tribes to discuss how it can be ensured that African Customary Law can continue to exist.