U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Murdering Spouse Can't Inherit, Even If Not Guilty by Insanity

A rather narrow yet fascinating issue just got a definitive answer from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Even if a jury finds an accused murderer not guilty by reason of insanity, if the accused did it, they can't inherit from their victim.

Out of context, it sounds really crazy, but in the context of domestic abuse and spousal or parent murder, it begins to make much more sense. Why should a surviving spouse benefit from an inheritance if they murdered their spouse? When there is a mental health issue, for some, that might complicate matters. But, for the Seventh Circuit, its reading of the Illinois slayer statute didn't leave much room for interpretation, or a murdering spouse's chance at inheriting anything.

What Happened Here?

Anka Miscevic murdered her husband while he slept. That fact was stipulated to in court. However, Anka was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and has been committed as a result. However, their child's inheritance has been held up in court as Anka asserted a claim against the estate, which would pass to their child under state law since she killed her husband.

Miscevic asserted primarily that provisions of ERISA preempted the Illinois slayer statute. However, the court was unconvinced as there is actually strong precedent for the exact opposite. She also tried to argue that the slayer statute itself should not be applied to a not guilty by insanity verdict. Unfortunately for her though, the appellate court explained that the update to the law, 35 years ago, fixed the loophole that would have allowed her to inherit.

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