In re Estate of Mahoney

The Facts

  • Mahoney died intestate in May 1961 from gunshot wounds.
  • W was convicted on manslaughter for shooting Mahoney.
  • W is serving 12-15 years in prison for the crime.
  • Mahoney left no issue and was survived only by W and parents.
  • F was appointed administrator of the estate which amounted to $3,885. 89.

Procedural History

  • PC entered judgment granting estate to parents.
  • W appealled

The Issue

  • Whether a widow convicted of manslaughter in connection with the death of her husband may inherit from his estate

The Holding/Disposition

  • Reversed PC decision if only to have the case taken to the Chancery Court, since the decision was not w/in the jurisdiction of the PC
  • Recommended W be made constructive trustee

Court’s Reasoning

  • Many jurisdictions have enacted statutes that prevent a killer from taking by descent or distribution from the person he killed
  • Jurisdictions that do not have such statutes have recognized 3 ways the estate can de decided:
  • The legal title passes to the slayer and may be retained by him in spite of his crime.
  • The legal title will not pass to the slayer because of the equitable principle that no one should be permitted to profit by his own fraud, or take advantage and profit as a result of his own wrong or crime.
  • The legal title passes to the slayer but equity holds him to be a constructive trustee for heirs or next of kin of the decedent.
  • Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional and unlawful killing, with a real design and purpose to kill, even if such killing be the result of sudden passion or great provocation.
  • In VT, an indictment for murder can result in either voluntary of involuntary manslaughter (killing w/o intent to do so).
  • No statutory distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter

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