The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog reported here on an interesting West Virginia case revolving around whether a mentally ill man who killed his mother and plead not guilty by reason of insanity is excluded from her estate under Virginia’s slayer statute.
The case is discussed in detail in Estate Claims “Insane” Killer Can’t be Victim’s Heir:
The estate of a woman who was killed by her mentally ill son may create new law in West Virginia by seeking to bar him from inheriting any of her assets even though he was not technically convicted of a crime.
Richard O’Neal pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder of his mother, whom he suffocated to death in her Charleston home in March 2005. A judge accepted the plea and ordered him committed to a state mental health facility for up to 40 years or until a further order of the court.
Under West Virginia’s “slayer’s statute,” “No person who has been convicted of feloniously killing another … shall take or acquire any money or property, real or personal, or interest therein, from the one killed.”
As one of Bonnie O’Neal’s three sons, Richard is entitled to a one-third share of her estate. But in a declaratory relief claim, her executor says that given his responsibility for her death, it would be “inequitable” and a violation of the “slayer’s statute” for him to receive that share.
“While the slayer’s statute applies ostensibly when there is an actual felony conviction in connection with the wrongful act, the public policy of West Virginia prohibits Richard G. O’Neal from profiting from his wrongful act,” the complaint, filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, states.
Florida’s Slayer Statute:
Florida’s slayer statutes are found at F.S. § 732.802 (probate estates) and F.S. § 737.625 (trust estates). Unlike the West Virginia statute, the Florida statute is drafted broadly enough to give the trial judge the discretion necessary to disinherit a killer even if he or she isn’t actually convicted of murder. Here is the key language from F.S. § 732.802:
(1) A surviving person who unlawfully and intentionally kills or participates in procuring the death of the decedent is not entitled to any benefits under the will or under the Florida Probate Code, and the estate of the decedent passes as if the killer had predeceased the decedent.
. . . . .
(5) A final judgment of conviction of murder in any degree is conclusive for purposes of this section. In the absence of a conviction of murder in any degree, the court may determine by the greater weight of the evidence whether the killing was unlawful and intentional for purposes of this section.