Slayer Statute Prevents a Killer from Obtaining Benefits
A beneficiary killing the insured to recover benefits is obviously immoral and illegal. Texas law also prevents a killer beneficiary from receiving the money. Section 1103.151 of the Texas Insurance Code is considered a "slayer statute" and provides: "A beneficiary of a life insurance policy or contract forfeits the beneficiary's interest in the policy or contract if the beneficiary is a principal or an accomplice in wilfully bringing about the death of the insured."
Upon such a finding, the insurance code further provides that the money goes to the contingent beneficiary. If there is no eligible contingent beneficiary, the money goes to the insured's nearest relative.
According to Texas court decisions, the slayer statute does not require a final conviction of murder. Instead, a party seeking to establish that a beneficiary has forfeited his or her right to collect on the policy need only prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the beneficiary willfully brought about the death of the insured. This may be proven by circumstantial evidence.
ERISA does not explicitly contain a slayer provision and ERISA generally preempts state laws. However, federal courts have generally recognized that public policy will not allow a beneficiary of an ERISA policy who wilfully kills the insured to receive benefits under the life insurance plan. Most ERISA plans provide the order of payment if the designation beneficiary is disqualified.
Anyone either challenging or defending a beneficiary designation under either Texas or federal law should consult a lawyer with substantial experience in handling life insurance beneficiary disputes.