Monday, May 19, 2014
Slayer statutes are laws that prevent a murderer from inheriting from his victim. The majority of states have enacted statutes codifying these laws, yet the specific source of rules and provisions vary from state to state. States differ with respect to whether an insanity defense affects the inheritance analysis, whether the slayer committed intentional homicide versus manslaughter, whether the slayer’s heirs are also disinherited, and whether a criminal conviction is required for the law to apply.
There are further differences in how the law operates among states. Recently, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin had to consider whether a judgment of conviction was sufficient to trigger Wisconsin’s slayer statute, or if the alleged slayer is entitled to exhaust his rights of appeal before the statute deprives him of his inheritance.
In June 2010, Chase Boruch was charged with first-degree intentional homicide of his mother. The State presented compelling evidence of Chase’s motive fork killing his mother, which was to redeem the proceeds of her life insurance policy. Just before Chase was convicted, he ran out of money and filed for bankruptcy. He subsequently initiated an adversary proceeding against his mother’s estate, and the Bankruptcy Court was faced with deciding whether Wisconsin’s slayer statue applies at the time of a judgment of conviction or that the convicted defendant be given the opportunity to exhaust all rights of appeal. The Court ultimately found the question was moot because Chase had filed an appeal before his conviction was affirmed. However, the Bankruptcy Court noted in dicta that if Chase had not appealed the conviction, the slayer statute kicked in and severed his interest in any life insurance proceeds when he was convicted.
See John Brookes and Jena Levin, A Brief Slay Right Through A Slew of State Laws, WealthManagement.com, May 15, 2014.