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I recently spoke with someone about whether or not an insurance policy would be paid to a criminal defendant who admitted to killing the policy holder. The defendant pled self-defense, but admitted to the killing. In Alabama, the law prevents a named beneficiary of a life insurance policy from reaping the benefits of feloniously and intentionally killing the one owns the policy, a.k.a, the slayer statute. If the defendant was the spouse of the decedent, the law deems the defendant to have pre-deceased the decedent, taking the defendant out of the line of benefits and inheritance.

The key word in the statute is "intentional." If the defendant is acquitted in a criminal trial, the criminal charge will be no legal barrier to the insurance company paying the policy proceeds to the defendant. However, the burden of proof in a criminal trial is much higher than in a civil trial. Consequently, in a suit for wrongful death, it is less difficult to prove an intentional killing, which, if it lead to a civil conviction, would prevent the defendant from recovering a benefit for her bad acts. Even in the absence of a criminal conviction, the "slayer statute" can be applied by the insurer to pay the contingent beneficiary.

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