HOUSE BILL NO. 231
AS AMENDED BY HOUSE AMENDMENT NO. 1
AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 23, TITLE 12, DELAWARE CODE, RELATING TO THE EFFECT OF MANSLAUGHTER OR MURDER ON ESTATE DISTRIBUTION.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:
Section 1. Amend Chapter 23, Title 12 of the Delaware Code by adding thereto Section 2322 to read as follows:
§2322. EFFECT OF MANSLAUGHTER OR MURDER ON INTESTATE SUCCESSION, WILLS, JOINT ASSETS, LIFE INSURANCE AND BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS
(1) 'Slayer' shall mean any person who pleads guilty or nolo contendere to, or is convicted of, the offenses defined in 11 Del. C. §§632, 635, or 636, excluding, however, in the discretion of the Court, those persons convicted of manslaughter under §632 as a result of the mitigating circumstance of extreme emotional distress as defined in 11 Del. C. §641.
(2) 'Decedent' shall mean any person whose life is taken by a slayer.
(3) 'Property' shall include any real or personal property, tangible or intangible, and any right or interest therein.
B. Statutory descent and rights.
The slayer shall be deemed to have predeceased the decedent as to property which would have passed from the estate of the decedent to the slayer under the statutes of descent and distribution or have been acquired by statutory right as surviving spouse.
The slayer shall be deemed to have predeceased the decedent as to property which would have passed to the slayer by devise or legacy from the decedent.
D. Tenancy by entirety.
Any property held by the slayer and the decedent as tenants by the entirety shall, upon the death of the decedent, be converted to property held as tenants in common, and one-half (1/2i of the property shall pass to the decedent's estate, and the other half shall be held by the slayer during his life subject to pass upon his death to the estate of the slayer, unless the slayer or the decedent's estate effects a partition of the property.
E. Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship
(a) Any property held solely by the slayer and the decedent as joint tenants, joint owners, or joint obligees shall, upon the death of the decedent, be converted to property held as tenants in common, and one-half (1/2) of the property shall pass to the decedent's estate, and the other half shall pass to the slayer, unless the slayer or the decedent's estate effects a partition of the property.
(b) As to property held jointly by three (3) or more persons, including the slayer and the decedent, the property shall be distributed as follows:
(1) Any enrichment which would have accrued to the slayer• as a result of the death of the decedent shall pass to the estate of the decedent during the life or lives of the joint tenant or tenants (excluding the slayer).
(2) If the slayer does not become the final survivor, then, upon the death of the Slayer, such enrichment shall pass to the other surviving joint tenant or tenants.
(3) If the slayer becomes the final survivor, the property shall be converted to property held as tenants in common, and one-half (1/2) of the property shall immediately pass to the estate of the decedent, and the other half shall pass to the slayer unless the slayer or the decedent's estate effects a partition of the property.
(c) The provisions of this section shall not affect any enforceable agreement between the parties or any trust arising because a greater proportion of the property has been contributed by one party than by the other.
F. Vested remainder.
Property in which the slayer holds a reversion or vested remainder and would have obtained the right of present possession upon the death of the decedent shall pass to the estate of the decedent, and be redistributed in accordance with the decedent's will or the laws of intestate distribution, excluding the slayer, during the period of the life expectancy of the decedent if the decedent held the particular estate. If the particular estate is held by a third person, it shall remain in his or her hands for such period.
G. Contingent remainder.
As to any contingent remainder or executory or other future interest held by the slayer, subject to become vested in the slayer or increased in any way for the slayer upon the condition of the death of the decedent:
(1) If the interest would not have become vested or increased if the slayer had predeceased the decedent, the slayer shall be deemed to have so predeceased the decedent.
(2) In any case, the interest shall not be vested or increased during the period of the life expectancy of the decedent.
H. Proceeds passing by designation.
(1) Any proceeds payable to the slayer as the beneficiary or assignee of any policy or certificate of insurance on the life of the decedent, or as the survivor of a joint life policy, or as the designee of any other property, shall be paid instead to the estate of the decedent, unless the policy or certificate designates some person other than the slayer or his estate as secondary beneficiary to the slayer, in which case such proceeds shall be paid to such secondary beneficiary in accordance with the applicable terms of the policy or property.
(2) If the decedent is beneficiary or assignee of any policy or certificate of insurance on the life of the slayer, or the designee of any other property, the proceeds shall be paid to the estate of the decedent upon the death of the slayer, unless the policy or certificate names some person other than the slayer or the slayer's estate as secondary beneficiary, or unless the slayer, by naming a new beneficiary or assigning the policy, performs an act which would have deprived the decedent of his interest in the policy if he had been living.
(3) Any insurance or other company making payment according to the terms of its policy or any bank or other person performing an obligation for the slayer as one of several joint obligees shall not be subjected to additional liability by the terms of this section if such payment or performance is made without written notice of the conviction of the slayer.
I. Purchasers for value without notice.
The provisions of this section shall not affect the rights of any person who, before the slayer has been convicted, purchases or has agreed to purchase, from the slayer for value and without notice, property which the slayer would have acquired except for the terms of this section, but all proceeds received by the slayer from such sale shall be held by the slayer in trust for the persons entitled to the property under the provisions of this section, and the slayer shall also be liable both for any portion of such proceeds which the slayer may have dissipated and for any difference between the actual value of the property and the amount of such proceeds.
J. Record of conviction admissible in civil actions.
The record of the slayer's conviction for participating in or causing the death of the decedent shall be admissible in evidence against a claimant of property in any civil action arising as a consequence of this section.
This section shall not be considered penal in nature, but shall be construed broadly in order to effect the policy of this state that a person shall not be permitted to profit by his own wrong."
Approved July 16, 1993.