Killing your spouse has consequences.
Do not kill your spouse.
This is sound advice.
Not just because murder is wrong, but it could exclude you from inheriting his estate!
According to a recent Bloomberg article titled “Woman Who Stabbed Husband While He Slept Can’t Get His Pension,” this was the case for a woman recently found not guilty in killing her husband by reason of insanity.
But the surviving spouse is usually entitled to pension benefits according to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), yes?
That is correct, as a general rule.
However, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit cited another law as taking precedence over this general rule in its decision in Laborer’s Pension Fund v. Miscevic.
What was this law?
The “slayer statute.”
This law basically prohibits a murderer from receiving financial benefits from his or her victim.
Most states—including Illinois where the woman lived—have adopted this rule.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has chosen not to address this issue, the Seventh Circuit upheld the slayer statute as taking precedence.
What about the "not guilty" verdict?
Because the not guilty verdict was based on "insanity" and not because she did not committed the homicidal act, the slayer statute still applied.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: Bloomberg (January 29, 2018) “Woman Who Stabbed Husband While He Slept Can’t Get His Pension”