Extending the Slayer Rule in Missouri


The state of Missouri does not have a slayer statute that prevents someone from inheriting from the estate of someone they killed. However, as a matter of common law, the slayer rule is enforced by the state courts. Now, a bizarre new case is asking those courts to extend the slayer rule more than they have ever previously done.

Missouri prosecutors allege that in 2010 Kansas City attorney Susan Van Note entered her wealthy father's lakefront home, then attacked him and his girlfriend Sharon Dickson.

The girlfriend died at the scene. The father was transferred to a hospital.

Van Note arrived at the hospital with a Health Care Power of Attorney, which prosecutors allege was forged, and ordered the doctors to take her father off of life support.

He passed away four days later.

The prosecution's theory is that Van Note murdered her father and his girlfriend because he had made Dickson the primary beneficiary of his will.

Nevertheless, Susan Van Note had been appointed as the personal representative of her father’s will. Thus, for two years, she was in charge of her father's estate at which point she was indicted for the murders and removed as the personal representative.

Now, in the probate case, Van Note argues that since her father's will had no backup plan and the fact that Dickson predeceased him, the rules of intestate succession should apply. Consequently, she would be the sole heir to her father's estate.

However, Dickson, had an adult son from a previous marriage. He is asking the court to apply the slayer rule, exclude Van Note and her heirs, and make him the beneficiary of the estate.

If Dickson’s son prevails, this would be extending the slayer rule further that it ever has been extended in Missouri.

You can read more about the bizarre twists and turns of this case in a recent Kansas City Star article titled "Susan Van Note probate case is as curious as the murder case."

Reference: Kansas City Star (June 20, 2015) "Susan Van Note probate case is as curious as the murder case."

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