Can a Killer Inherit?

I will admit that I am a fan of Dateline ID and the various other murder shows. Some of these shows have titles such as Wives with Knives, Married with Secrets and Til Death Do Us Part. The names alone just beg you to watch, right? Those shows must have a large fan base. I can't be the only person who likes them because they have been on TV for a long time. You may wonder what these shows have to do with a blog about estate planning and wills. Let me explain. The plots usually deal with death. This means someone is receiving the victim's property. But what if the killer is the next of kin? Can a killer inherit?

Motives

In those shows, the motives for murder are often one of three things: Money, sex or drugs. When a married person is murdered the police look at the spouse first. The police also look to see if there was a life insurance policy on the victim. If the spouse was listed as the beneficiary on the life insurance policy, it creates suspicion. The part I don’t understand is how the murderer expects to receive the life insurance money.

What the Law Says

Under Texas Estates Code Section 201.058, if a beneficiary of a life insurance policy is convicted and sentenced as a principal or accomplice in willfully bringing about the death of the insured person, then the insurance money shall be paid in the manner as provided by the Insurance Code.

When you look at the Insurance Code, Section 1103.151, it states that a beneficiary of a life insurance policy forfeits the money from the insurance policy if the beneficiary is a principal or accomplice in willfully bringing about the death of the insured. In such case, the alternate beneficiary listed on the life insurance policy will receive the proceeds. Maybe.

If Other Beneficiary Is Guilty

You may ask yourself what happens if the alternate beneficiary was also involved in the murder? The statute also provides that if that is the case, then the nearest relative of the insured will receive the life insurance money.

It's A Good Thing

I believe this type of statute is a good thing. What kind of world would it be if you were able to collect the life insurance proceeds after murdering a person? Can you imagine someone murdering a person for the life insurance money and after serving the prison sentence, they collect the insurance money and live a life of luxury?

The Exception

There was an exception to the statute made in a San Antonio case back in 1964. The case is called Simon v. Dibble, 380 S.W.2d 898, 899 (Tex App – San Antonio 1964). The husband in that case shot and killed his wife but the court found him to be “insane.” Therefore, he was not capable of “willfully” taking the life of his wife. The appellate court ruled that the husband was allowed to receive the community property he shared with is wife and collect the insurance proceeds from her death that he caused.

Conclusion

If you have questions about your estate plan, including how life insurance may fit in, give me a call at 210-874-5700 or email me at hspires@TexasWillsLawyer.com. You can also fill out a contact form our my website at www.TexasWillsLawyer.com.

About Hugh

Hugh Spires, Jr.'s Profile Image
Hugh has been practicing law since 1995. He served 20 years in the Air Force JAG Corps as an attorney, where he provided estate planning for military members, retirees and their dependents. He understands the inconvenience and burden of traveling to an attorney’s office, yet he appreciates the importance of obtaining legal services when you need it.

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