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Estate Planning Newsletter

Homicide & Estate Planning

If a person murders a relative, is he/she entitled to receive any of the victim’s property? In most cases, the answer would be “no.” Usually, a convicted killer cannot inherit a victim’s property, even if he/she is a rightful heir or a named beneficiary.

Required Characteristics

To lose all rights to the dead relative’s property, the criminal court will need to find that a killer:

  • Intentionally and feloniously killed the person
  • Was legally sane at the time of the murder

Even if a person is not convicted of murder in criminal court, he/she may still lose rights to the dead person’s property if the probate court finds that he/she is responsible for the person’s death.

Forfeited Rights

Once the above are established, then the killer is treated as having “predeceased” the murdered person. This means that any rights the killer once had to the decedent’s estate are passed to whomever is next in line to inherit or manage the estate (as if the killer never existed as an heir).

The killer will therefore lose all rights to his/her share of the following:

  • Separate, joint, or quasi-community property
  • Bond or life insurance benefits
  • Any nomination as executor, trustee, guardian, or conservator in the decedent’s will or trust

Other Forfeiture

If the killer pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter (instead of being found guilty of murder), he/she may not be viewed as being innocent and may still lose all rights to the decedent’s property.

  • Totten Trusts for Assets Payable on Death
    A decedent’s assets may be transferred upon their death to their heirs or other beneficiaries through probate. “Probate” is the legal process by which a court determines who receives a decedent’s assets under... Read more.
  • Filing a Death Claim When an Insured Person Dies
    The beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the person entitled to receive the death benefit of the policy when the insured person dies. In order to collect on a death benefit claim, the beneficiary must usually comply with specific... Read more.
  • Removal of an Executor or Estate Administrator
    State laws and procedures typically govern the administration of an estate. For this reason, the law varies among jurisdictions. However, in 1969, a “Uniform Probate Code” (Uniform Code) was introduced. Since that time,... Read more.
  • Valuation of Securities for Estate Tax Purposes
    In 2001, Congress passed legislation incrementally increasing the amount exempt from federal estate taxes and completely eliminating estate taxes in the year 2010. However, the legislation contains a “sunset” provision... Read more.
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Our law firm represents estate planning clients from Riverside County, North County San Diego, Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Wildomar, De Luz, Fallbrook, Bonsall, Escondido, Valley Center, Rainbow, Hemet, Riverside, Menifee, Sun City, Canyon Heights, Canyon Lake, Quail Valley, Pechanga, and Pala. Our law firm focuses on California estate planning, wills, trusts, estates, probate administration, trust administration, asset protection, and entity formation. Practicing as an estate planning attorney, trust attorney, and probate attorney, Laila Kepler guides her clients through life's changes.