Should Taylor Swift be worried about her estate plan?
In her hottest new single, “Anti-Hero,” internationally-renowned songstress Taylor Swift shares some concerns regarding her fortune:
“I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money
She thinks I left them in the will
The family gathers 'round and reads it
And then someone screams out
'She's laughing up at us from hell!'"
The relatable song reveals Taylor’s internal battles with anxieties and depression, including the fear of not being able to trust those who are closest to her. One portion of the song alludes to a paranoia that a close family member will kill Taylor for her money. Based on the remaining lyrics, one can assume that Taylor is describing a scenario in which she has outwitted that individual by disinheriting them.
To be clear, Taylor is unmarried and does not yet have any children. Although one can argue that this particular song topic is mere future tripping (a form of anticipatory anxiety), it is valid for anyone to be concerned over their estate plan.
With a net worth of $450 million, one can only hope that Taylor has her estate plan in place. However, should Taylor be worried about what would happen to her property should she be murdered? Is disinheriting her suspected heir the right move?
Enter: The Slayer Statute. Keep reading to learn about the Slayer Statute, and why Taylor may find some peace of mind knowing that her estate is protected against heinous scenarios.
What is the Slayer Statue?
According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the Slayer Statute, or Slayer Rule, states that a murderer legally cannot inherit property interest from their victim’s estate. A court will treat a murderer as thought they had predeceased the victim. By committing the act of murder, the individual is disclaiming their property interest. In simpler terms, they cannot inherit anything from the estate of their victim.
Note that the slayer statute only applies if the murderer is convicted of murder, and that the killing was determined to be intentional and a felony.
The Slayer Statute is in place to deter individuals from murdering family members or spouses for their inheritance. However, the rule does not apply to any individual who was determined to have killed by accident or self-defense.
Although there are certainly instances where morally corrupt individuals plot the murder of a family member for their inheritances, some cases aren’t as straightforward. For instance, an individual who agrees to assist a terminally ill testator in suicide could become disinherited from the estate as well, bringing about a hot topic of debate.
Slayer Statute Application Example
A famous case where the Slayer Statute was applied was the 2002 murder of Laci Peterson. Her husband Scott Peterson Peterson filed a lawsuit, Principal Life Insurance v. Peterson, to claim the $250,000 in insurance benefits resulting from Laci’s death.
However, he was convicted of the murder and was eventually sentenced to death in 2005. Because Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder, he lost his case, despite the lack of a final judgement.
Slayer Statute Code by State
Estate planning laws are adjudicated on a state-by-state basis. Although probate law works similarly across the nation, it is still a good idea to be informed on the specific regulations of the state in which you live.
Here is a reference to the Slayer Statute code by state:
Slayer Statute CA: Probate Code Section 250 applies the slayer statute when an individual kills a decedent “feloniously and intentionally.”
Slayer Statute TX: Texas Estates Code Section 201 prevents a killer from benefiting from a life insurance policy. This is found in both the Estates Code and Insurance Codes.
Slayer Statute NY: New York estate law states that an individual cannot inherit from an estate if they contributed to or caused (directly or indirectly) to the decedent’s demise.
Slayer Statute FL: Florida Statutes Chapter 732 states that a killer is “not entitled to receive property or other benefits by reason of victim’s death.”
Important estate planning Lessons from Taylor Swift
The song lyrics of “Anti-Hero” bring up a number of important estate planning lessons.
First and foremost, the Slayer Rule protects an individual’s estate in case they are murdered. While it may be admirable for an individual to take the extra steps necessary to disinherit someone from their Will, it may not be necessary. If Taylor has a future daughter-in-law that kills her for her millions, the Slayer Rule would prohibit the daughter-in-law from inheriting any assets from Taylor. The court would treat the daughter-in-law as if she were already dead, even if she was specifically named as a beneficiary on any of Taylor’s assets. In other words, paranoia alone is not necessarily a reason to disinherit a family member from an estate.
Second, “Anti-Hero” is a great reminder to keep your estate plan up-to-date. Even if you don’t have concerns over getting murdered, or family members plotting on how to get their inheritance early, you can still have valid reasons to wish to disinherit a family member. By keeping your estate planning documents current, you can help prevent family conflicts and minimize the possibility of litigations. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing that your assets will actually go to the people you want them to. Although Taylor is well-known as a songstress full of riddles, we can only hope that her estate plan is anything but and is straightforward.
Last but not least, Taylor alludes to late, sleepless nights where she spends her time worrying. By setting up your estate plan, you’ll have greater peace of mind and one less thing to worry about. Having a Will and other estate planning documents in place will help you feel assured that your personal affairs are in order and that the people you love most are protected.
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