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Monday, February 28, 2022

If a murderer cannot inherit from the will of the person he kills, who gets his share?

Have you ever heard that if you are named in a will but you are convicted of murdering the testator, you cannot inherit from the will? In Canada, this is true. But if that happens, then who inherits the murderer's share?

Recently, this very issue was in front of the BC Supreme Court. The deceased was Lois Unger. Ms. Unger left a will in which she divided her estate between her two sons, Clayton and Logan. The will provided that if either of her sons died before her, the son's children would take the son's share. If none of that worked out, there were charities named as alternate beneficiaries. Clayton and Logan were also named as direct beneficiaries on Ms. Unger's TFSA and RRSP. The estate totaled about $860,000.

Things went badly off the rails and Clayton pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of his mother. 

According to public policy, which applies all across Canada, Clayton was disentitled to receive anything from his mother's estate. He could not inherit the TFSA or the RRSP either. The executors took the estate to court to ask who would receive Clayton's share of the estate.

Clayton had a girlfriend who gave birth to a little girl, Adeline, 11 days after Ms. Unger died. While this might seem an obvious choice, the will actually says that grandchildren inherit if a son dies, but Clayton hadn't died. So was his daughter entitled to his share?

Logan's position was that the law says Clayton can't benefit from his crime, and that giving the share to Clayton's daughter is the same as benefitting Clayton.

The court focused on what it believed Ms. Unger intended. The judge awarded the share to Adeline, on the basis that Ms. Unger clearly intended any children of Clayton's to be an alternate beneficiary to Clayton. The funds were to be held by the Public Trustee on behalf of Adeline.

Anyone who would like to read the Unger case in full may do so by clicking here

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