The recent Georgia Supreme Court ruling in Levenson v.
Word exposes difficult interpretative and equitable
questions posed by Georgia's slayer statute. The case
began after Debra Post inherited her husband's estate but
was then arrested for his murder. She used her husband's
life insuranceproceeds and the real property she acquired
through the murder to pay two law firms to defend her in
the murder trial before pleading guilty.
The court-appointedadministratorof the estate sued the
law firms for conversion for not returning these illegally
and immorally acquired funds. Under the Georgia slayer
statute, a murderer forfeits the right to serve as the
administrator of an estate and any rights to recover by
will or intestacy. However, interpreting the statute, the
Georgia Supreme Court held that title vests out of the
murderer only upon finalization of judicial condemnation
proceedings. Thus, a murderer can legally transfer
inherited property until the second before conviction,
notwithstanding the possible bad faith of the third party
receiving the property.
This Note argues that to uphold common law values and
equitable principles, courts in future cases should employ
the constructive trust remedy. Thus, if a bad faith
purchaser receives the decedent's property, this third party
would be required to return it to the party retaining
equitable title-here the deceased's estate. This remedy
avoids inequitable rulings that are sure to result from
Silver, Mark A.
"Vesting Title in a Murderer: Where Is the Equity in the Georgia Supreme Court's Interpretation of the Slayer Statute in Levenson?,"
Georgia Law Review: Vol. 45:
3, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/glr/vol45/iss3/6