The Slayer Statute: Making Sure Killers Don't Profit

Cary, NC Estate Planning Attorney

Cary, NC Estate Planning Attorney

There's an awkward but somewhat appropriate saying that you shouldn't let your beneficiaries know how much they're going to inherit or else they may see to it that you pass sooner rather than later. If Junior knows he's getting a big chunk of the estate from Dad's will, he may be incentivized to make sure Dad passes before he has a second thought. Luckily for North Carolina residents, the Slayer Statute exists. 

In North Carolina, a person who causes the death of another is prohibited from benefiting from the death, meaning they are precluded from inheriting from the deceased's estate, but they're also prohibited from receiving non-probate life insurance proceeds as well.  

Not Just Limited to Murder

The Slayer Statute is broad enough to encompass all forms of causation, whether they are criminal or civil in nature, or intentional or negligent. For example, a murderer would obviously be covered by the statute, but so would a drunk driver who kills a passenger in his car, or a husband who negligently installed a gas stove and led to the house burning down and killing his wife.  

Requires a Legal Conclusion

In order to be considered a "Slayer", a person must have been judicially determined to have been responsible for the decedent's death. That may be by virtual of plea, judge verdict, or jury verdict.  

Deterrent? Maybe Not

The idea behind the Slayer Statute is to prevent killers from profiting from their misdeeds, but if the future killer has no knowledge of the Statute ahead of time, which is the case for most North Carolina residents, then it can't possibly have a deterrent effect.