The slayer rule, in the common law of inheritance, is a doctrine that prohibits inheritance by a person who murders someone from whom he or she stands to inherit: i.e., you don’t inherit your parents money if you kill them. The effect of the slaying was that the slayer would be treated as though he or she had died before the person who had been murdered.

While convicting someone of the crime of murder requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the slayer rule applies to civil law, not criminal law, so it is only necessary to prove the wrongful killing by a preponderance of the evidence, as in a wrongful death claim. This means that even a slayer who is acquitted of the murder in criminal court can still be divested of the inheritance by the civil court administering the estate.

In the United States, most jurisdictions have enacted a slayer statute, which codifies the rule and supplies additional conditions.

Maryland Slayer Rule

The Maryland Slayer Rule is harsher than most other states. In addition to prohibiting murderers from inheriting from their victims, Maryland’s slayer rule prohibits anyone else from inheriting from murder victims through their murderers; Maryland’s Slayer Rule is thus similar in structure to Corruption of Blood. Example:

A mother leaves her son $50,000, and leaves her son’s child (her grandchild) $100,000. She leaves her residuary estate (i.e., whatever else is left of the estate) to her daughter. If the son kills his mother, then under Maryland law, the son’s child will inherit the $100,000; however the son’s $50,000 (which is also the indirect inheritance of the grandchild through his father), is not available under Maryland law to either the son, or his child. The $50,000 becomes part of the grandmother’s residuary estate and goes to the daughter.

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