Berman & Asbel, LLP

The actions of beneficiaries can affect their inheritance

Estate administration during probate is about determining what goes where. It is about calculating taxes, determining what is included in the taxable estate, what liabilities may need to be addressed and of course who the beneficiaries of the estate will be. Determining the beneficiaries is not simply about reading a name. In fact, the actions of the beneficiary could even affect his or her inheritance.

There is a little estate clause called the "unworthy heir," and while each individual state's laws vary, many implement some form of this clause. theory behind the clause is that an individual cannot benefit from their wrongful actions. A man was recently barred from receiving his $740,000 inheritance from his parents; the reason why was that a jury had determined that he was responsible for their death.

The man's parents were found dead in 2010, and investigators worked hard to find evidence indicating who had done it. The son was eventually arrested based on the evidence. Prosecutors said that the cause of their death was one of the longest standing reasons for murder, and that was greed. At trial a theory was presented that the man had killed his own parents over serious debt and a failing career. To substantiate theory, the prosecution presented evidence of his mounting debts, his lack of success as a day trader and evidence that he had already stole $50,000 from the parents' investment account after their death.

A probate judge determined that estate laws prohibited the man from collecting the inheritance. Instead, the $740,000 he was set to inherit went to his own children. A trust was set up that provided each child with one third of the inheritance when the youngest of the children reached the age of 25. That will occur in approximately 10 years.

Source: La Crosse Tribune, "Koula's kids to inherit $740K," Anne Jungen, March 28, 2013

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