Another Reason to Keep Harmony in the Home 🙂
Generally under Section 732.802 of the Florida Statutes (the “Slayer Statute”) if someone murders another person, the murderer can NOT inherit from the person they murdered. That makes sense but what happens when the murdered person left assets to the murderer’s children and grandchildren????
In a recent case, Fiel v. Hoffman, the children and grandchildren of the murderer asked that specific question. Nancy and Ben were married. Nancy had a daughter by another marriage and her daughter had 2 sons. Ben named Nancy’s daughter as a beneficiary of $100,000 and Nancy’s grandson’s as beneficiaries of the balance of his estate if Nancy and his mother did not survive him.
Nancy not only murdered her husband but also was responsible for the death of Ben’s mother. Talk about a black widow!!! Thus, at Ben’s death, the assets would be distributed to Nancy’s daughter and the grandsons.
Of course Ben’s heirs, his cousins, contested this distribution and argued that Nancy had used physical violence against Ben to make him change his will. Ben had also obtained a restraining order against Nancy, because Nancy had made death threats to him. Thus, the heirs argued that the will was only changed because of the undue influence. The heirs also argued that the daughter and grandsons should not inherit under the Slayer Statute.
The court determined that the Slayer Statute ONLY applied to the murderer and that the daughter and the grandsons could inherit from Ben. The court stated that the statute was clear and that to “interpret the statute to preclude the stepchildren from recovering would require us to add words to the statute, something we cannot do. If the Legislature deems as a public polity matter that anyone inheriting through the slayer should be barred from receiving any share of a victim’s estate, it can amend the statute to accomplices that result.” The court did remand the case to the lower court to discuss the undue influence issues.
ADVICE: All I can say about this case is “WOW”!!! Everyone will have their opinion whether Nancy’s children should have been able to inherit as they had no part in the murder. Query what if they did have something to do with the murder? Should our Florida Bar RPPTL Section look at this statute as suggested by the court? In the meantime don’t make your spouse mad or don’t make the stepchildren your default beneficiaries!
New Word of the Week: Nunc Pro Tunc.. Sometimes you may see these words in an opinion regarding a court order. Nunc pro tunc means having retroactive effect through the court’s inherent authority. Thus, if a court enters an order nunc pro tunc as of an effective date in the past, it means that the action is now done which should have been done on that effective date.
GENEROSITY IS A KEY TO HAPPINESS …REACH OUT AND HELP SOMEONE TODAY!