When an Heir Causes a Death, Can They Inherit From the Deceased?

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Admittedly, whether you can inherit from someone you killed is not a question that estate planning attorneys are often asked (and they would probably be highly suspicious of the questioner if they were!). It's certainly not an issue that arises frequently. However, there are people out there who, for whatever reason, intentionally cause the death of a family member. If it seems unfair to you that they should then inherit some of the assets of the person they killed, the Ohio legislature agrees with you.

Ohio Revised Code section 2105.19 prohibits someone who has committed voluntary manslaughter, murder, or aggravated murder from benefiting from the death. This is true whether the person is convicted of the crime, pleads guilty, or is found not guilty by reason of insanity. It also applies to juveniles who would have been guilty of one of those crimes had they been able to be tried as an adult.

What Happens to the Forfeited Inheritance

Not only is a person who intentionally killed someone prevented from inheriting from them, they are also barred from receiving life insurance and other benefits that would otherwise have been payable to them. If you think about it, this makes sense. Otherwise, a spouse or relative with bad intentions could take out a life insurance policy on the person they intended to kill, and, even if convicted, make a tidy profit on the death.

In the rare event that one person intentionally causes the death of another, forfeiting their inheritance and other benefits, what happens to those assets? For purposes of Ohio inheritance law, the person who caused the death is treated as if they died before the person who was killed.

Let's say that Mike and Carol married each other after both had been previously married. Mike, incensed by a snide comment Carol had made about his design of their dream home, strangles her in her sleep. If Carol had died of natural causes without a will, Mike would have inherited part of Carol's estate, with her three daughters from her first marriage taking the rest. Upon his death, his three surviving sons would eventually receive those assets.

Because Mike caused Carol's death, however, Ohio law treats him as if he died first. In that case, Carol's three daughters would be her next of kin under the law and would inherit her entire estate. If Mike were not treated as if he predeceased Carol, anything he would have inherited would have passed to his own sons—an unjust result.

If you'd like to learn more about Ohio inheritance law, we invite you to read:

Categories: Inheritance