The New York “slayer rule”, a common law principle, provides that no one should benefit financially from one’s own crime. As a result, a killer is not entitled to the proceeds from his victim’s estate.
In a recent case, Matter of Edwards, the court extended this rule. In this case, a husband killed his mother-in-law. His wife was the sole distributee of her mother’s estate. While the husband’s criminal case was pending, the wife died intestate (without a will). Since the couple had no children, by operation of law, the husband became his wife’s sole distributee. 10 months later the husband pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree for the death of his mother-in-law.
The husband’s attorney argued that the husband should be able to inherit the money, because the money was coming from the wife, not the mother-in-law. The court, however, held that under the principle of the ‘slayer rule’, one should not benefit from one’s wrongdoing, especially when there is such a “clear causal link between the wrongdoing and the benefits sought”. As a result, the husband did not inherit any of his mother-in-law’s money.