Law School Case Brief
Armstrong v. Armstrong (In re Estate of Armstrong) - 170 So. 3d 510 (Miss. 2015)
The Supreme Court of Mississippi concludes that Mississippi should follow the majority of states and holds that the Slayer Statute, Miss. Code Ann. § 91-5-33 (Rev. 2013), requires a finding of willful conduct to preclude a person from inheriting from his or her victim. Because an insane person lacks the requisite ability willfully to kill another person, the Slayer Statute is not applicable in cases where the killer is determined to be insane at the time of the killing.
John R. Armstrong, a severely mentally ill man, killed Joan Armstrong, his 80-year-old mother. The Circuit Court of Jackson County determined that John was not competent to stand trial for the murder of Joan and John was committed to the state hospital at Whitfield. Based on the Slayer Statute, John's four siblings requested that the devise to John in their mother's will be declared void. The chancellor granted their motion, and John, through his court-appointed guardian ad litem, appealed the ruling.
Was it proper for the court to grant that Joan's will be declared void in relation to John's devise?
The Supreme Court of Mississippi held that the Slayer Statute required a finding of willful conduct to preclude a person from inheriting from his or her victim. Because an insane person lacks the requisite ability willfully to kill another person, the Slayer Statute was not applicable in cases where the killer is determined to be insane at the time of the killing. As such, because the record was silent as to the decedent's son's mental state when he killed the decedent, the case was remanded for a hearing to determine his mental status at the time of the murder and whether he willfully caused his mother's death.
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