In 2011, a woman from Georgia discovered that her estranged husband had shot and killed their 6-year-old daughter before turning the gun on himself in the family's North Carolina home. The woman attempted to recover the funds her deceased husband had in a trust account but was denied access even after filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of her daughter. This might sound like a case greed, but let's take a closer look at the tragedy.
Over a decade before the murder/suicide, the woman's husband had allegedly been involved in a car crash resulting in the death of the man's 11-year-old sister. Following a civil case, the man received a sizable settlement, which was placed into a trust fund for management purposes. Upon the murder-suicide that killed the couples little girl, the woman sued her deceased husband's estate for wrongful death on behalf of their 6-year-old daughter and won a default judgment.
Now, enter the deceased man's mother, who, as the sole remaining trustee of the man's settlement, claims that the trust funds should be dispersed to the man's remaining siblings. A deeper investigation revealed that the man died before his daughter, thus the little girl was named as the beneficiary to the man's trust money.
That seems like a reasonable ruling, but Georgia Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed the ruling last week on grounds that the funds were not part of the man's estate. Regardless of where you live, it's always important to fight for your rights even if it means filing a wrongful death claim on a family member's estate. The woman's loss can never be replaced, but gaining access on behalf of her daughter to the trust money might help her find a new purpose. An attorney with knowledge about this kind of law can offer valuable guidance in tragic cases like this one.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "Trust Access Unavailable to Woman After Tragedy" Jeff D Gorman, Mar. 27, 2014