Why you cannot kill someone and inherit their NY Estate under the Slayer Law: Estate of Enders

On October 3, 2021 the bodies of 87 year old John Enders along with 75 year old girlfriend of 20 years, Francoise Pitoy were found in Enders’s Long Beach Island beach front home on North 7th Street.  When the authorities found them Enders had been stabbed 51 times while Pitoy suffered 39 stab wounds.  Each victim had received gunshot wounds to their mouth.  Immediately, Surf City Police Department realized they were looking for a murder suspect who perpetrated two crimes of passion with a strong motive eliciting this type of brutality. Upon further investigation it became obvious that Enders’s 57 year old daughter, Sherry Heffernan drove to her father’s home alone in the early morning of September 29, 2021 in her large, conspicuous recreational vehicle, parking outside Enders’s beach house and committing the gruesome murders.

 

In the four week murder trial of Heffernan that ensued neighbors testified that Heffernan had become increasingly aggressive and belligerent towards her 87 year old father after learning she had been completely disinherited from his estate in a recent will executed three weeks prior to the murders.  In the more recent will, Enders cut his daughter Heffernan out of his estate and instead left everything to his longtime girlfriend and murder victim Pitoy.  For Heffernan’s extreme depravity committed over the inheritance she will never receive, Heffernan received two life sentences in prison amounting to 63 years of incarceration. Heffernan will die in prison.  It was obvious that Heffernan’s motive for the gruesome murders in this instance was more vengeance and revenge rather than a well thought out plot to facilitate her inheritance with the murder of her father.  What about cases, unlike this one, when someone kills an heir in order to expedite the dispersal of their inheritance?

 

The Slayer Statute

 

As a NY estate lawyer I can tell you as outlandish as it may seem murder in the perpetuation of inheritance does happen more frequently than you would believe.  While most of us would never even think of committing such an act, occasionally we come across individuals who have no conscious whatsoever.  As a result within NY estate law, that the legislature and courts developed the need to draft and enforce the “slayer statute”.   According to the “slayer statute”, what NY estate lawyers know as EPTL 5-4.3(a), a person is disqualified from inheriting any portion of estate proceeds derived from a death they either directly or indirectly caused, excluding accidents.  In other words nobody shall be permitted to profit by his or her own fraud or wrongful act to acquire property by their own crime.  As such if it is determined someone had a part in another’s death, under the Slayer Statute it will be legally determined that the perpetrator of the act predeceased the victim so as to disallow any financial benefit from their wrongful act. The NY estate law is no stranger to the slayer statute which dates back to the historic 1889 case of Riggs v. Palmer, 115 NY 506 (1889).  The Court in Riggs., denied the decedent’s grandson his half of his grandfather’s probatable NY estate after the grandson was convicted of the murder of said grandfather.  In conclusion, murdering someone in an attempt to accelerate or enhance your share of inheritance from a NY estate is a bad idea.  First, the odds are very high you will be caught and will have to go to prison.  Secondly, if you are found to have caused the death of someone either directly or even indirectly you will most likely lose all inheritance rights under the NY estate law anyway.

 

If you or someone you love is the heir to a NY estate, you may have rights under the NY estate law.  Feel free to call an experienced NY estate lawyer at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates, at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation.  Our Queens estate lawyers have 70 years of combined NY estate law experience handling these often complex NY estate cases for heirs in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Richmond, Orange and Dutchess.

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