Mother Can’t Receive Inheritance From The Estates of Her Three Children Whom She Killed!

wills and estates lawyerJudge McCarty sitting in the Surrogate’s Court in Nassau County recently had a unique case before him. A mother had drowned her three children. However, she was found not guilty due to mental illness. Judge McCarty ruled even though the mother was mentally ill and she did not know that her conduct was immoral and wrong, she could still not financially benefit from her actions.

Leatrice Brewer brought a proceeding to inherit $350,000 from the estates of her three dead children. She had killed them in February 2008. She admitted she killed them because she thought she was saving them from a voodoo curse.

Son of Sam Law

The case dealt with whether Ms. Brewer could inherit from her dead children. This is covered by the Son of Sam Law. The Son of Sam Law prevents criminals from financially benefitting from the crimes they have committed. Justice McCarty stated in his decision “the fact that the State cannot criminally punish an insane defendant is irrelevant to a determination of whether it is equitable for the killer to inherit from the victim.”

At the time of her trial, Ms. Brewer was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or illness. She has been maintained in an upstate criminal psychiatric facility since the trial. Justice McCarty stated, although Ms. Brewer is not a criminal “this court will not relieve Ms. Brewer of her moral responsibility.” “To ignore Ms. Brewer’s own admissions concerning her children’s deaths by allowing her to share in a fund which would not otherwise have existed but for her conduct disturbs the conscience of the court.”

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death lawsuits had been brought by the children’s father against Nassau County. These lawsuits claim social workers had not properly monitored Ms. Brewer and her three children. The cases were settled for $350,000. Ms. Brewer’s attorneys brought an application to the court to prevent the father from receiving the $350,000 in settlement money.

Issues have arisen as to whether the father had legally abandoned the children and Justice McCarty indicated he would hold a separate hearing to determine if the father should be disqualified from receiving the $350,000 paid in settlement of the children’s deaths by Nassau County.

estate planning and administrationElliot S. Schlissel is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He probates wills and represents clients with regard to all matters before the Surrogate’s Courts in the State of New York.