126 Vt. 31
SYNOPSIS: Appellant wife sought review of the decision from the Probate Court for the District of Franklin (Vermont), which granted the estate of her late husband to appellee parents and determined that she could not inherit from her husband because she had been convicted of manslaughter in his death.
OVERVIEW: The wife was convicted of manslaughter for killing her husband. The husband died intestate and the probate court determined that it would be unjust to allow her to profit from her husbands death and decreed the residue of his estate to his parents rather than to her as required by Vt. Stat. Ann. ch. 14, § 551(2). The wife challenged the decision and the court reversed.
There was no statutory basis for depriving the wife of her rights under Ch. 14, § 551(2) and the probate court lacked the equitable power to stray from the statutory mandate.
The court recognized that the wife should not be permitted to profit from her husband's death if she intentionally killed him and granted the estate administrator 60 days in which to apply to the court of chancery, which had the equitable power to impose a constructive trust on the wife in favor of the parents. Because the manslaughter conviction did not delineate between voluntary or involuntary manslaughter the intentional killing of the husband would have to be proved in the chancery court before a constructive trust could be imposed. If the chancery court's jurisdiction was not invoked within 60 days the wife inherited the property.
OUTCOME: The court reversed the judgment granting the husband's estate to his parents rather than his wife and gave the estate administrator 60 days to apply to the chancery court for the imposition of an equitable trust on the wife.
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