Riggs v. Palmer: Disallowing Inheritance of Will
Debate Rounds (4)
2. Francis Palmer was the owner of a farm and trust of the farm was given to Mrs. Bresee, whom Francis married in 1882. (45.1.3)
3. Elmer Palmer lived with his grandfather from the time the will was executed, and had clear knowledge of the provisions at stake. With the knowledge Elmer had, he was afraid that his grandfather would change his mind and revoke the provisions in favor of Elmer"s interests. There was intention made by the grandfather at one point, which furthered anxiety in Elmer"s mind. (45.1.5-6)
4. To get a head start on the benefits of the will and to prevent any potential changes to the will, Elmer decided to poison his grandfather. (45.1.6)
5. The question before the Court today is whether Elmer can take the estate and enjoy the fruits of his crime. (47.1.1)
6. In this probate suit, Defendants allege that the testator is dead and his will was made with fair procedure, admitted to the probate and therefore must have effect, with accordance to the letter of the law in Trusts and Estates. (45.2.1)
7. Moreover, it is the intention of the statute and the lawmakers advancing the statute that the donees in a will should have the property given to them, and that the testators final wishes are legally expressed without absolutely any modification or control of the will by the Courts. (45.2.2-2-4)
8. However, it must be noted, the lawmakers never intended, at the time of passing the statute, that the benefiting party who murders the testator should be privileged to benefit under testators will, so it could not possibly be in the statute. (45.2.5)
9. Lawmakers who pass laws do not always draft up their intentions with perfection, allowing judges to conjecture probable or rational thoughts " rational interpretation. (46.1.4)
10. In essence, no one is entitled to benefit from fraud, or to take advantage and acquire property by committing a convenient crime.
11. The United States functions under a common law system.
12. Under the common law of inheritance, the slayer rule is in effect, which disallows inheritance when the inheriting party commits a murder.
13. Additionally, the slayer rule was corroborated in the case of New York Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Armstrong (1886), where the Court disinherited the slayer because of the public policy principle that a slayer should not profit from his crime.
14. In New York Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Armstrong (1886), the court justified its decision with the following, "It would be a reproach to the jurisprudence of the country if one could recover insurance money payable on the death of the party whose life he had feloniously taken."
15. The same approach has to be taken in our case, because Elmer poisoned his grandfather to receive property from the death of his grandfather.
16. Aside from the language, we find that all laws, and contracts made between two parties, operate on the premise of general and fundamental maxims of the common law system, which can control and effect operation of a will. In other words, no person should have a personal gain from deception, and may not acquire property by his own crime. (46.3.4-5)
17. Maxims described above are detailed by public policy and have their roots in universal law, and are supreme to statutes. (46.3.6)
18. A will that operates by fraud and deception and is against public policy has to be made void.
19. In this case, there was no guarantee that Elmer would survive Francis, as he could"ve died first. Also, Francis Palmer could"ve switched up his will to fit his specific desire. In essence, many different actions could"ve occurred that would"ve negated Elmer"s interests in the estate. By murdering Francis, Elmer established his interest. (46.4.1-2)
20. By committing the crime, Elmer made the will speak and operate in his opportunistic favor. Is he allowed to gain from his act? It is clear that if he had met up with Francis and took his property by force, there would be no title granted, that is clear and cut. (47.1.3-5)
21. To allow Elmer title and access to the estate would be a reproach to the jurisprudence of the state, and as discussed before, a blatant offense to public policy. (47.1.8)
"Elmer Palmer murdered his grandfather in order to gain his grandfather"s estate through an inheritance.
"Wills are subject to trust and estate laws.
"The will was in proper legal form and admitted to probate.R32;R32;
"Should Palmer be entitled to his inheritance after murdering his grandfather?
"Is the court allowed to interfere and revise a person"s will under particular circumstances?R32;R32;
With respect to the first controversial issue, the court has decided that Palmer should not receive his inheritance after he murdered his grandfather. While the defense asserts that the will was fully admitted to probate and is in compliance with the trust law, Palmer can still not inherit his grandfather"s real property. The court, in this case, specifically provided the idea of a universal maxim governing society. All laws and contracts made between two parties, operate on the premise of general and fundamental maxims of the common law system, which can control and effect operation of a will. In other words, no person should have a personal gain from murder or fraud, and may not acquire property by his own crime. Maxims are detailed by public policy and have their roots in universal law, which is adherent by every country, and are supreme to statutes. The court intervened in this matter because society does not compensate individuals for their bad behavior. There was no way the grandfather can change the will because he is now dead and the court is vested the right in place of him. Had the grandfather foreseen this act by his spiteful grandson, there would be a clause in the will dedicated to a case of wrongful death and the specificities behind it. Due to no such hostility, the grandfather was not in a place to act. For all we know, Elmer could"ve looked like the most trusting and respectful person around his grandfather. Creating a provision of wrongful death, however, would cause a slippery slope because members of the family would feel insecure and distrusted. A will is created to represent a sense of trust and unity within a family. It is important to also note that no reasonable grandfather would think of getting murdered by his grandson or family member for that matter. Elmer was also granted the right to live with his grandfather and no facts in the case are indicative of hatred towards one another. By committing the murder, Elmer destroyed the trust in the family and should not be restored inheritance belonging to Plaintiffs.R32;
The slayer rule, in trusts and estates law, has the effect of disqualifying the murderer from receiving property from the estate of the victim."For example, A, the beneficiary of insurance on the life of B, murders B. Is A allowed interest to the insurance? According to New York Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Armstrong (1886), neither the murderer nor anyone claiming under him can recover. The court has concluded that they will not allow a wrongdoer to profit from his crime. "It would be a reproach to the jurisprudence of the country, if one could recover insurance money payable on the death of a party whose life he had feloniously taken." This sets up the direct precedent for the case at hand, whereby Elmer should not receive his inheritance from the will. The court interprets this as to not reward any persons with their crimes. Therefore, under these special circumstances, the court is allowed to use rational interpretation in its approach to modify will.
(2.)When the testator made his will, he owned a farm and considerable personal property (45.1.2).
(3.)In March 1882, the testator married his second wife, Mrs.Bresee, with an anti-nuptial contract in which it was agreed that, in lieu of dower and all other and all other claims upon his estate in case she survived him, she should have her support upon his farm during her life, and such support was expressly charged upon the farm (45.1.3).
(4.)Elmer was living with his grandfather from the date the will created till his death, in which Elmer was 16 years old (45.1.4).
(5.)Elmer willfully murdered his grandfather with poison because he knew of the provisions in his favor in the will, and wanted to prevent his grandfather from revoking the provisions since the grandfather manifested intention to do so (45.1.5).
(6.)Elmer now claims the property, and the testator"s daughters are trying to take it away from him (45.1.6).
(7.)The defendants say that since the testator is dead, and that his will was made in due form, it must have effect according to the letter of the law (45.2.1).
(8.)Statutes regulating the making, proof, and effect of wills, and the devolution of property, if literally construed, and if their force an effect can in no way and under no circumstance be controlled or modified, give this property to the murderer (45.2.2).
(9.)"The purpose of those statutes was to allow testators to dispose of their estates to the objects of their bounty at death, and to carry out their final wishes legally we must keep this in mind" (45.2.3).
(10.)The intention of the law-makers was to make sure the donees in a will have what was given to them (45.2.4).
(11.)It is unreasonable to assume that the law-makers could not have rationally interpreted a donee killing a testator to receive their benefits in advance, especially if the donee was aware that the testator was considering revoking their provisions.
(12.)It is only reasonable to believe that a person will do whatever means necessary to keep things in their favor.
(13.)For example, a robber will more than likely kill the person they are robbing if they feel like that person can rat them out to the police.
(14.)If the law-makers wanted to prevent a donee from killing the testator for their benefits in the will, then the law-makers should have established such provision in the statutes.
(15.)To argue that Elmer did not let nature take its course, so there is no guarantee that Palmer would have kept his will the same, giving Elmer the estate, is unconvincing.
(16.)If you argue that Palmer could have changed his mind about giving Elmer his estate, then you can say that there is no guarantee that Palmer would have left small legacies for his two daughters in his will.
(17.)It is morally correct to say that someone who murders someone else should not be rewarded, but the matter here is not one of morality, it is of law.
(18.)The laws we must look at are those involving the revocations of wills since the majority opinion seems to be arguing that Palmer"s intention to revoke Elmer"s provisions in the will is sufficient enough to make the will invalid.
(19.)However, when looking at the law, this is not the case.
(20.)"As Woodwort, Jr., said in Dan v. Brown, 4 Oow.490: "Revocation is an act of the mind, which must be demonstrated by some outward and visible sign of revocation."" (48.3.7).
(21.)Palmer never demonstrated any outward or visible signs of revocation, he only manifested the intention of doing so.
(22.)To assume that the testator would have altered his will had he known of his grandsons murderous intent is invalid because of revocation statutory regulations.
(23.)So, at the time of his death, according to the statutes, his will was valid and should be carried out as is.
(24.)There are two cases that justify why the act of revocation is necessary (48.5.1).
(25.)In Gains v. Gains (1820), it was urged that the testator intended to destroy his will, and was forcibly prevented from doing so by the defendant; but the Kentucky court of appeals found no evidence of that acts of revocation were made, so the mere intention is not a substitute for the act (48.5.2-4).
(26.)In Leaycraft v. Simmons (1854), the court also found that a mere intention to revoke is insufficient even when the testator was being refused his will to make alterations (48.5.5-10).
(27.)If the courts ignore the revocation of wills regulations, then they in effect will be creating a new will for the testator.
(28.)The laws do not warrant this judicial action, and mere presumption as to what the testator would want is not strong enough to sustain it (49.2.3).
(29.)If courts are allowed to make assumptions as to a testators wishes, then wills in general will be pointless since it gives the courts the option to alter them however they feel is right.
(30.)Also, if you take away Elmer"s inheritance from the will, you are imposing additional punishments upon him (49.3.2).
(31.)As stated in People v. Thornton, "we may not enhance the pains, penalties, and forfeitures provided by law for the punishment of crime" (49.3.4).
(32.)Therefore, Elmer should receive the inheritance from the will.
Premises 1 through 10 (facts of the case).
Premise 21 " Palmer only demonstrated intent to revoke his will, he never acted on that intent since the will was left unchanged at the time of his death.
Premise 17 " This is an issue of law not morality because this is a matter of statutory interpretation, not what is right or wrong.
Premise 27/28 " Courts should not be creating new wills for testators based off of presumptions because they do not know what the testator would have really wanted. Only a testator knows their best interest and since they created a will before their death giving provisions to certain individuals, then their wishes should be kept.
Premise 16 " You cannot argue that Elmer did not let nature take its course so there is no guarantee that Palmer would have kept the provisions in his favor without arguing the same for the plaintiffs in this case because then you are being hypocritical. If there is no guarantee that one would not have received the provisions given to them, then you must assume the same for the other.
Premise 14 " Although it is impossible to foresee all possible outcomes of a given situation, it should have been foreseen that a donee would murder a testator since there is civil law that prohibits one from inheriting property/will from a benefactor whom he/she has murdered.
Premise 30 - Imposing additional punishments on Elmer would be like imposing additional punishments on an arsonist for the death of a firefighter because a negligent driver was driving to close behind the fire truck when the firefighter fell off.
If you say the will must be void because there is no say as to what Francis Palmer would have done if he survived, then don"t you have to make the will void for his daughters as well?
Couldn"t it have been rationale interpreted that a donee might murder a testator in order to receive benefits quicker?
Can you give an example of law-makers rationale interpretation for statutes related to this issue?
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