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Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Slayer Rule in California Estates

Q: Can a killer inherit from their victim’s estate?

A California estate planning attorney would likely have no inclination that a client’s adult child would contemplate-- much less execute-- murdering their parent to collect on their life insurance policy or as a beneficiary of that parent’s estate. But it happens.
The chilling thought is enough to encourage people not to tell their beneficiaries of their intended future good fortune. But in many cases, children do know.
California elder abuse attorneys are dedicated to helping clients with more than just traditional estate planning. They help them qualify for public benefits and execute powers of attorney to plan for who will be responsible for their financial and health care decisions in the event they become incapacitated. While it isn't foolproof, a comprehensive estate plan for elders goes far in preventing financial exploitation and elder abuse.
Recently, a prominent California dentist was reportedly charged in the strangulation murder of his wealthy mother. According to police, the son murdered his mother with the motivation of "financial gain” and in order to "collect her life insurance money". If the allegations are true, the son was likely unfamiliar with the “Slayer Rule” (Cal. Prob. Code, Section 250-252). 
The Slayer Rule law in California effectively disqualifies a person who "feloniously and intentionally" kills someone from receiving any property from the estate of their victim. That includes life insurance proceeds and most property that would pass to the murderer as a result of the death of the victim.  Instead, the victim’s property that was ear-marked for the murderer would pass to others as if the murderer had pre-deceased the victim.
The reasoning behind such a statute is obvious, fair, and necessary in a civilized society. One should not be able to benefit from a murder.
If you or a loved one is in need of an estate plan, would like to modify an existing estate plan, or need assistance with an elder abuse situation, the Law Offices of Berge & Berge can help you. Contact us today to request a consultation.
From our offices in San Jose, California, we've been proudly serving clients in the South Bay area for over 23 years in all matters of trust and estate planning.

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