Willingham v. Matthews via www.justia.com

Docket: 1130890 Opinion Date: September 19, 2014
Judge: Wise
Areas of Law: Trusts & Estates

Brandy Matthews and Joshua Taylor Matthews were married in 2004. In 2011, Brandy died as a result of gunshot wounds inflicted by Joshua. Brandy’s death was determined to be a homicide. On the same date, Joshua died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Brandy and Joshua both died intestate. Deborah Willingham (Brandy’s mother) was appointed by the Probate Court as the administrator of Brandy’s estate. Rodney Matthews (Joshua’s brother) was appointed as the administrator of Joshua’s estate. Willingham filed for a declaratory judgment, stating that there was a justiciable controversy between Brandy’s estate and Joshua’s estate as to their respective rights, duties, and liabilities based on Willingham’s interpretation of section 43-8-253 (“the Slayer’s statute). She contended that, upon application of the statute, Joshua would have been unable to inherit from Brandy, and that his property was to pass as if he had predeceased Brandy. Matthews filed a response to Willingham’s motion for a summary judgment, arguing that the statute only addressed how Brandy’s estate would pass but not how Joshua’s estate would pass, and that it therefore would have no bearing on the administration of Joshua’s estate. The trial court entered a summary judgment declaring that 43-8-253 applied to the passing of Brandy’s estate but not to the passing of Joshua’s. Willingham appealed that judgment to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that Willingham did not establish that the trial court erred in finding that 43-8-253 was not applicable to the administration of Joshua’s estate. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

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