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What happens to your estate if a beneficiary kills you?

We realize that today's post may be a little on the morbid side but there is a reason behind asking this particular question in today's post title. We ask it because of a case out of New York some of our Florida readers may have heard about on the news. It's the case of Thomas Gilbert Sr., a man who was fatally shot in early January of this year. His son has been arrested and is accused of his murder.

Just like in the question above, many people are now wondering if Gilbert's son, who is named as a beneficiary, will be able to collect his inheritance if he is convicted of murder. After hearing about a case like this, it could leave our Melbourne readers wondering how our state's laws would handle such a case and whether it's necessary or not to add a contingency to a Florida estate plan.

The good news is, you may not need to have a contingency for your estate plan because our state's laws take care of this issue. Called a "slayer statute," Section 732.802 of our state's Probate Code states that a beneficiary is not entitled to inheritance from a will or insurance policy if they are found to be guilty of intentionally and unlawfully killing the person who has named them as a beneficiary.

Although a conviction of murder in any degree will trigger the statute, a lesser conviction, such as that of manslaughter, is left for the courts to decide. In the case of an involuntary manslaughter conviction, the courts may allow the beneficiary to collect their inheritance. If the family does not agree with this decision though, they will need to contest the issue in probate with the help of a skilled lawyer.

Though we hope none of our readers experience a tragedy that would trigger the "slayer statute," we know that it could become a reality for some. That's why, in these difficult cases, we promise to provide the experience people need in order to resolve the issue successfully.

Source: Investment News, "Shocking NYC murder highlights need for estate planning contingencies," Darla Mercado, Jan. 16, 2015

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