In October 2018, new statutory legislation recommended by the Irish Law Reform Commission of the country’s cabinet considered a rule that would block those found guilty of killing their domestic partner or spouse from unjust enrichment attached to financial or estate proceeds. In the United States, spousal property is customarily subject to rules of intestate succession in a probate court proceeding, when one spouse is found to have been unlawfully killed by another. If not other legitimate heirs or beneficiaries are present, spousal property part of estate assets is escheat to state coffers. In states with Dead Man Statute provision, heirs or beneficiaries may contest the last will and testament of a decedent. New York Dead Man Statute protects a decedent from a spouse making false claims in court.
Irish Estate Law and Spousal Protections
The proposal comes at a time when an Irish citizen, Eamonn Lillis received distribution of a near 1.3m euros (£1.16m) from his spouse’s estate, despite being found connected to her manslaughter. Jailed for six years between 2010 and 2015 for assault and battery of Celine Cawley, his wife, Lillis maintains the responsible party was a trespasser on their property, who had broken into the home. The proposed legislation seeks additional protections for spouses harmed by their partners; prohibiting guilty parties from any financial benefit flowing from spousal property. The Irish government is also considering statutory provision concerning cases where a spouse has aided or abetted in the murder or manslaughter of their partner. To present, Irish law has not prohibited claimants who have commissioned unlawful killings of their spouse from inheriting joint assets (i.e. co-owed property); as seen in the High Court decision in favor of Lillis’ claim.