Various bars to inheritance exist based on certain actions and behaviors of individuals. An heir (a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance) becomes ineligible to inherit upon the killing of the decedent (a person who has died) according to the N.C.G.S. §31A-4. Under the statute, the “slayer,” which is the one who willfully or unlawfully kills, is barred from inheriting intestate succession, testate succession, and non-probate succession. Intestate succession occurs when someone dies without a will but owns property and the property passes through probate. Probate is the process that gives legal recognition to a will. Testate succession occurs when the property is distributed by someone who dies with a valid will. Non-probate succession occurs when property assets transfer outside of the will. The “slayer” statute dictates that the slayer is said to have predeceased the decedent. The bar to inheritance is subject to various rules.
What Acts Constitute a “Slayer” Under Statute?
Under the statute, one can qualify as a slayer in various circumstances. One of the first ways to meet this definition is if an individual is convicted of or pleads guilty to the willful and unlawful killing of another person. Secondly, a person may be deemed a slayer if they are accused of killing and tender a plea of nolo contendere, which is when the accused accepts a conviction, declining to contest the charges, but does not admit guilt for the crime. Third, a slayer may be someone who is found to have unlawfully killed or orchestrated the killing of the decedent by a preponderance of the evidence in a civil suit within two years of the death. Finally, a juvenile who is deemed delinquent because of committing an act that, if done by an adult, would make the adult a principal or an accessory to the killing of another may also qualify as a slayer. The term slayer is not extended to those who are found guilty because of insanity for the killing of another person.
Why is there a “Slayer Rule”?
These statutes are designed to disincentivize the intentional killing of an individual to inherit from them. Various policy grounds exist for involuntary bars such as the societal disapproval of certain actions, a deterrent for actions that society considers problematic, and the decedent’s presumed intent in a case that an heir behaves in such a way.
King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. Contact King Law and let us help you at 888-748-KING (5464) or by filling out our consultation form. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.