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What is Georgia's Slayer Statute?

Georgia and many other states have laws called "slayer statutes" that prevent someone who caused the death of another from inheriting their murder victim's money.

This means that if one of your heirs murders you, Georgia law may prevent the killer from getting his inheritance.

But your money might go elsewhere.

Georgia's Slayer Statute

No, this is not the kind of blonde-haired fictional vampire slayer that hails from Sunnydale, California. This slayer refers to a person who stands to inherit from the estate of someone they've killed.

There are generally no federal laws governing wills and trusts (other than issues with federal benefits), so the rules against receiving an inheritance through bloody murder are specific to Georgia.

Under Georgia's "slayer statute" (also called the "slayer rule"), your killer cannot inherit any interest in your estate, if by killing you the person commits:

  • Murder;
  • Felony murder; or
  • Voluntary manslaughter.

However, involuntary manslaughter is not included, so your killer may still inherit from you if your death was due to their recklessness but ultimately unintentional.

Your Murderer Can Use Inheritance to Pay Defense

Although the slayer statute declares that your murderer may not gain money or property from your estate, he may still be able to use inheritance money to pay for defense lawyers at the trial for your murder.

In one case, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that prior to a conviction for murder, a wife who murdered her husband could use property from her husband's estate to pay her legal defense team.

So until either a civil or criminal court determines there was an intentional killing, the slayer rule does not go into effect.

Standards of Proof for Slayer Statute

Intentional killing can be proved in two ways for the slayer rule to apply:

  • By criminal conviction. Either a plea of guilty or a determination by a jury that there was an intentional killing beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • By civil determination. In either a wrongful death suit or related civil charge, a court may prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was an intentional killing.

Clear and convincing evidence is not as strict a standard as beyond a reasonable doubt, so even an acquitted murderer may be prevented from inheriting from his victim's estate (like O.J. Simpson).

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