The Importance of Naming Alternates in Your Estate Plan


On January 4, the founder of Wainscott Capital Partners Fund, Thomas Gilbert Sr., was found murdered in his Manhattan apartment. Shortly after, his son, Thomas Gilbert Jr., was arrested and charged with the crime.

The elder Gilbert's will splits a $1.6 million nest egg between his wife, daughter, and son. Unfortunately, there is some speculation that the son accused of murdering his father may still be entitled to an inheritance under state law.

Traditionally, so-called "slayer statutes" prevent people from profiting from their own wrongdoing by forbidding an inheritance if the beneficiary kills the grantor of inheritance. In California, the "slayer statute" also prevents the killer from serving as an executor, trustee, or custodian of the estate.

However, it's only considered murder if there is a criminal proceeding and a conviction of the perpetrator. If the case is not brought to trial or the perpetrator is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he or she can still inherit. A manslaughter conviction may or may not qualify as a reason for disinheritance, depending upon the circumstances of the case.

Although most of us don't draft a will anticipating that a family member will be barred from inheriting due to a murder conviction, there are plenty of other reasons to consider naming alternates in your will. For example, your beneficiary may pass away before you do or may end up refusing to accept an inheritance to avoid being forced to pass valuable family assets onto his or her creditors to testify previous unpaid debts. On a similar note, your first choice to serve as trustee, executor, or custodian of your estate may end up declining due to conflicting work or personal obligations.

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Estate plans must be personalized to fit individual circumstances. Our Pasadena estate planning firm can help you create a plan that best addresses your specific needs. Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at to schedule an appointment.