Convicted Murderer Cannot Inherit Estate

Man had killed his grandmother.

Church Law and Tax 1993-07-01 Recent Developments

Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Key point: Most states have enacted laws prohibiting heirs from receiving any interest in an estate of a decedent whom they murder. In some cases, these laws can result in contingent gifts to religious institutions.

A Colorado appeals court ruled that an heir who was convicted of murdering his grandmother could not receive any portion of the grandmother’s estate, which accordingly passed to a church as the “contingent beneficiary.” The grandmother executed a will leaving her estate to her grandson. In the event he did not survive her, she directed that her estate be distributed to her local church. After the grandson was convicted of the murder of his grandmother, the church sought a court order declaring it to be the rightful owner of the grandmother’s estate. It relied on a state law specifying that “any person convicted of murder in the first degree or second degree as having caused the death of any other person either as principal or accessory, shall not take, either by descent, devise, inheritance or any other manner, any of the estate, real or personal, of the deceased.” A trial judge agreed with the church’s position, and awarded it the grandmother’s estate. The grandson appealed, and state appeals court upheld the trial judge’s decision in favor of the church. In re the Estate of Walker, 847 P.2d 162 (Colo. App. 1992).

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