Trusts & Estates: Killing an Inheritance

TRUSTS & ESTATES

When he died in Vermont in 1961, Howard Mahoney left neither a will nor children. As a result, the state laws of descent seemed to entitle his surviving wife to all of his tiny $4,000 estate. But Charlotte Mahoney did not get a cent; a probate court gave everything to his parents. Reason: Charlotte had been tried for Howard's gunshot murder, convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to a maximum 15 years' imprisonment.

Since Vermont statutes do not cover such situations, the probate court merely invoked the old common-law rule that...