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In re Estate of Mahoney

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Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was convicted of manslaughter for the death of her husband, and appeals from a decree, wherein the probate court determined appellant was not entitled to a share of her deceased husband’s estate.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Legal title passes to the slayer but equity holds him to be a constructive trustee for the heirs or next of kin of the decedent.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

No one shall be permitted to profit by his own fraud, or to take advantage of his own wrong, or to found any claim upon his own iniquity, or to acquire property by his own crime.

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Facts. On May 6, 1961, Howard Mahoney, decedent, died intestate of gunshot wounds. His wife, Charlotte Mahoney, appellant, was tried for the murder of decedent and was convicted of manslaughter by a jury in March 1962. Appellant is currently serving a sentence of not less than 12 nor more than 15 years at the Women’s Reformatory in Rutland. Decedent left no issue, but was survived by appellant, and his mother and father. His father, Mark Mahoney, was appointed administrator of his estate, which amounts to $3,885.89. The probate Court for the District of Franklin entered a judgment order decreeing the residue of decedent’s estate, in equal shares, to decedent’s mother and father. Appellant appeals from the judgment order and decree.

Issue. Whether a widow convicted of manslaughter in connection with the death of her husband can inherit from his estate?

Held. Yes. Decree reversed and cause remanded.
The judgment issued by the probate court decreed the estate directly to the parents of the decedent and failed to decree it to the appellant, as constructive trustee, which was in direct contravention of the statutes of descent and distribution.

Discussion. The principle that one shouldn’t be able to profit thru their wrong must not be extended to every case in which a killer acquires property from his victim as a result of the killing.

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