Slayer rule

Slayer rule

The slayer rule, in the common law of inheritance, is a doctrine that prohibits inheritance by a person who murders someone from whom he or she stands to inherit. The effect of the slaying was that the slayer would be treated as though he or she had died before the person who had been murdered. It was necessary to prove the wrongful killing by only a preponderance of the evidence, as in the case of a wrongful death claim. If the slayer was later convicted of the murder, that would conclusively divest him or her of his or her interest; but if the slayer was acquitted of the murder, the court administering the estate could still weigh the evidence and determine whether or not the alleged killer should be divested.

In the United States, most jurisdictions have enacted a slayer statute, which codifies the rule and supplies additional conditions.

Maryland Slayer Rule

The Maryland Slayer Rule is a bit harsher than most other states. In Maryland, neither the murderer nor his or her direct issue may benefit from the killing.


A mother leaves her son $50,000, leaves her son's child $100,000, and leaves her residuary estate to her daughter. If the son kills his mother, then under Maryland law, neither the son nor his child will take. Both the son and the son's child will be treated as if they pre-deceased the mother, and thus the entire estate will go to the daughter.

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