Common law says a person cannot benefit from their crimes. For this reason, most states have enacted so-called “slayer statutes” that prevent a killer from sharing in the victim's estate. Our society believes one should not benefit from his wrongdoing. Particularly, we do not think that a killer should be allowed to benefit from having committed a wrongful killing. This edict is the rationale behind the slayer rules statutorily codified in most states.
Unfortunately, there are countless cases under which the nuances of the application of these laws have been tested. In one such case, the slayer attempted to research pertinent probate law before the killing.
In 2012, Todd Stuart was accused of the attempted murder of his mother-in-law, Judy Hebert. Reportedly, Todd conspired with his estranged wife Tashia Stuart to kill Hebert in the hope that they would attain her money through inheritance. There was at least one other documented occasion when the defendants tried to kill Hebert before she was shot and killed.
On that occasion, a 32 lb-bin of books fell directly on Hebert's head and almost killed her. The murder occurred about two weeks later. On that day, Hebert was shot to death by her adopted daughter Tashia Stuart, who was charged with aggravated first-degree murder. Tashia claimed that she killed her mother in self-defense.
During the investigation, police determined that Tashia was researching probate law in the State of Washington. The research was performed on days near both the attempted murder and the actual murder. On both occasions she did research on lost or destroyed wills. She was apparently planning on state law working to find her as sole heir after her mother’s will was ‘lost.’ Tashia was convicted of first-degree murder this summer and will receive no portion of her mother’s estate because of Washington law.
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Contributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney Andrea Claus.
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At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years. Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects. We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
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