A Challenge to Wasington’s Slayer Statute

From The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog a few days ago. (direct link here)

Washington’s slayer statute is like others in that its designed to prevent those who are guilty of killing someone from collecting from their estate. Apparently though, the Washington State’s statute is notoriously vague.

From this article at The Seattle Times on Jan. 3, 2008:

The Slayer Statute is designed to prevent those guilty of two key things — a “willful” and “unlawful” killing — from profiting from their crimes. So, for example, a person who accidentally hit a family member with a car wouldn’t necessarily be prevented from collecting life insurance because, although the killing could have been unlawful, the killer didn’t necessarily intend to do it.

Hoge’s attorney, Jean O’Loughlin, argued that the June 23, 1999, slayings of Pamela and Zach Kissinger, Hoge’s 49-year-old mother and 19-year-old brother, weren’t legally unlawful because Hoge was found not guilty [by reason of insanity]. Therefore, the Slayer Statute should not even apply, she said.

John Strait, a Seattle University associate professor of law, agrees.

“For all intents and purposes, there is no crime. We don’t punish people for being really sick. We don’t impose criminal culpability on people who are mentally ill,” he said. “It’s nutty logic.”

After the killings, the family won $800,000 in a civil suit against King County when it was determined that a public-health clinic had failed to give Hoge his medication and was partially responsible for the slayings.

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