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No estate rights despite acquittal

Orlando residents may be interested in a New York judge's November ruling that barred a woman who was acquitted of murdering her three children from sharing in their $350,000 estate. This estate planning case set precedent, addressing the state's Son of Sam legislation, which prohibits criminals from profiting off of their crimes. The judge decreed that a successful insanity defense is irrelevant when establishing if the defendant will inherit the victims' assets.

The judge also noted that although the state will not sentence an insane person to prison for murder, allowing this person to profit from a murder is an entirely separate issue. Due to an insanity plea, the defendant was sent to a psychiatric institution after being acquitted of murdering her children in 2008. The defendant was brought from the psychiatric institution in upstate New York to participate in the November Nassau County trial.

The fathers of the victims reached a settlement on wrongful death lawsuits against Nassau County because social workers had actually visited the family a few days before the homicides occurred. No one was home at the time, and the social workers failed to schedule a follow-up visit immediately thereafter. The defendant later filed an objection in an attempt to stop the fathers from receiving the settlement. The judge noted that the primary basis for his decision was the direct link between the defendant's actions and the benefit that's now available.

The will and probate administration process is often a complicated and emotionally challenging period. Some families may consider relying on legal representation when it's time to negotiate and formulate documents relating to power of attorney, living wills, guardianship or designating a health care surrogate.

Source: ABC News, "Judge: No Estate Rights for NY Mom Who Killed Kids", Frank Eltman, November 06, 2013

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