Testamentary inheritance refers to receiving part of a person’s estate because they chose to name you as a beneficiary in their will.  

Can a Criminal Act Keep Me From Inheriting under a Person’s Will?

Yes.  If you have been named as a beneficiary under someone’s will but committed a criminal act against them, this can keep you from inheriting in some circumstances. Each state has a different list of criminal acts that may prevent inheritance, including: 

The beneficiary must actually be convicted of the crime, not just charged. Many states also draw a line between intentional and unintentional killings. For example, in some states, a beneficiary convicted of first degree murder or voluntary manslaughter committed against the person who wrote the will cannot inherit. However, a beneficiary convicted of second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter, may still be allowed to inherit. 

What Happens to Property a Criminal Beneficiary Would Have Inherited?

States deal with property or money that a person would have inherited but for a criminal act differently. In some states, the person who was supposed to inherit is treated as though they died before the person who wrote the will. In these cases, the inheritance will be given to the children or close family of the person who would have inherited.

Other states feel that it is not fair for the criminal actor’s family to benefit from the criminal act, and the property or money will be divided equally among the other beneficiaries under the will. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Will Problem?

If you are concerned about your right to inherit because of past criminal conduct, it is important to get in touch with an experienced estate lawyer. A wills and trusts attorney can advise you of your options and help protect your inheritance rights.