Crime Does Not Pay In Estate Inheritances Unless Criminally Insane

Estate Inheritances

Yesterday I blogged about who were nieces and nephews in the Re Holmes Estate.

One of the interesting side issues of the Holmes Estate case was that pursuant to the deceased’s will, if any of the 2 testator’s nieces or nephews predeceased the testator, that person share of his estate was to be paid to the predeceased person’s spouse.

In fact the spouse of one of the nieces of the deceased, had been convicted of her murder several years prior.

The court held that the convicted spouse of the deceased niece was not entitled to her share of the estate, because of the general rule of public policy precluding a person from benefiting from a crime.

Accordingly the Court held that the gift to the nieces and nephews was a class gift,  and when a class member was disqualified from taking a share, that share was to go to increase the shares of the surviving class members.

The Court followed the Supreme Court of Canada decision of Nordstrom v Baumann 37 WWR 16, ( 1962) SCR 147 which had clearly stated that the will of public policy which precludes a person from benefiting from his or her own crime overrides the statute law as to the distribution of the estate of an intestate.

The court easily held that it is permissible in civil actions to make findings of fact which you proven in criminal proceedings would be held criminal.

Accordingly Canadian civil courts have repeatedly determined the question of whether or not the conduct of an individual amounts to a crime, for the purpose of invoking the rule of public policy precluding a person from benefiting from his own crime.

In this case the will, the questionable beneficiary was found to be criminally insane at the time she said a fire which cause the death of her husband.

Accordingly the court allowed her to inherit, as the finding of insanity did not prevent her from inheriting due to public policy. Her share was thus placed with the Public Guardian.

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