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“The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

What Crimes Bar Inheritance?

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The Appellate Court for the First District has found that conviction of perjury and obstruction of justice in a murder case are not necessarily bars to inheriting form the murder victim.

Darota Chaban married William Chaban in Las Vegas on June 9, 2007. When they returned to Chicago on June 13, 2007 and informed Darota’s mother Irene of their marriage, Irene was initially upset. On June 18, 2007, Irene was discovered dead by Darota and William at Irene’s condominium. Irene was last seen on Friday, June 15 at her place of employment. Darota told the police and a grand jury she had not been at her mother’s condominium on June 15 or the rest of the weekend, she was never in the condominium on June 15 and she was with William most of the day. After being confronted with phone records placing her in the condominium on Friday, Darota admitted she had lied and claimed she was following William’s instruction. Darota was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. William was charged and convicted of first degree murder of Irene and sentenced to 45 years in prison. Darota filed a petition to probate Irene’s will and the court appointed her administrator of the estate. Darota later resigned and the trial court appointed the Administrator. The Administrator argued Darota was barred from inheriting her mother’s estate by 755 ILCS 5/2-6 (“Slayer Statute”) and provides, in pertinent part:

Person causing death. A person who intentionally and unjustifiably causes the death of another shall not receive any property, benefit, or other interest by reason of the death, whether as heir, legatee, beneficiary, joint tenant, survivor, appointee or in any other capacity and whether the property, benefit or other interest passes pursuant to any form of title registration, testamentary or nontestamentary instrument, intestacy, renunciation, or any other circumstance.

The Administrator argued even though Darota herself may not have murdered her mother, the Slayer Statute bars her inheritance because of the “indirect benefit” to William. Darota argued the Slayer Statute only prohibits the person who intentionally and unjustifiably killed the victim and Darota has never been implicated in her mother’s murder. Further, there was no evidence that William would even receive indirect benefits from Irene’s estate, as he was sentenced to prison for 45 years.

The First District found a plain reading of the Slayer Statute did not bar Darota’s inheritance because the Statute precludes someone “who intentionally and unjustifiably causes the death of another” from receiving property “by reason of the death.” If William were to receive any of Irene’s property, it would be because Darota transferred the property to him, not because of, or by reason of, Irene’s death. The Administrator was seeking to disinherit a party never accused of murder, on the chance the murderer might receive an indirect benefit. There is nothing in the Statute prohibiting Darota from obtaining property from Irene’s estate. The legislature could have specified a prohibition for a non-cooperating property holder in the same manner as it specified a prohibition for the murderer, and chose not to do so. Epstein v. Chaban (In re Estate of Opalinska), 2015 IL App (1st) 143407, 2015 Ill.App.LEXIS 847.

Categories Estate Planning Legal Updates



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