Thursday, November 14, 2013

In re Covert case brief

In re Covert case brief summary
Court of Appeals of New York, 2001
97 N.Y.2d 68

CASE SYNOPSIS: Appellant beneficiaries of a murdered wife's estate appealed a judgment of the Appellate Division (New York) directing petitioner executrix of both spouses' estates to distribute property to appellants and to respondent beneficiaries of the murderer/suicide husband, in accordance with the spouses' joint will.

CASE FACTS: A husband's and wife's joint will provided for the disposition of their property, mainly to their families, upon the death of the surviving spouse. The husband murdered the wife, and the executrix sought direction in distributing their property.

The trial court applied the rule that a wrongdoer could not benefit from his crime to preclude distribution of property to the husband's survivors.
However, an intermediate appellate court protected the husband's survivors as innocent parties, employing a fiction that the wife survived the husband and then ordering distribution under the terms of the joint will.

  • The high court also gave effect to the will, but found the fiction unnecessary. 
  • Rather, any bequests by the wife to the husband passed directly into the residue, for distribution according to the will. 
  • Joint property passed to the spouses' respective estates as property held in common, and insurance and pension proceeds passed to contingent beneficiaries.
CONCLUSION: The court affirmed the order.

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