Alternate beneficiary can inherit if named in will: B.C. court

Public policy forbids son who murdered his mother from inheritance

Alternate beneficiary can inherit if named in will: B.C. court

The B.C. Supreme Court recently ruled that a son who murdered his mother cannot inherit from her, but his child may get what would have been his share in his mother’s estate.

In Unger Estate (Re), 2022 BCSC 189, Clayton Warkentin was convicted of second-degree murder of his mother, Lois Janine Unger, who left an estate valued at approximately $860,000. Prior to her death, Lois executed a will which ordered that her estate be divided between her two sons, Clayton and Logan.

Under the terms of the will, Clayton would be entitled to one-half share in his mother’s estate, valued at approximately $400,000. However, public policy prevented Clayton from claiming his portion because she died as a result of his actions. Clayton had also agreed to voluntarily disclaim his entitlement to any portion of the estate.

Clayton’s brother, Logan, asserted that Clayton’s share of the estate should pass to him. However, the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia (PGT) asserted that Clayton’s share must pass to his infant daughter, Adeline, by the express wording of the will.

In addition, s. 46(1)(a) of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act mandates that if a gift in a will cannot take effect for any reason, the gift must be distributed to the alternate beneficiary named or described by the will-maker. In this case, Lois described her grandchildren as the alternate beneficiaries.

The executor of the will urged the court to ensure that the intentions of the testator are not defeated. According to the executor, Lois clearly expressed in her will her intention to benefit her sons, and in case that one or both sons failed to survive her, Lois’ intention was to benefit their offspring. Accordingly, Clayton’s daughter, Adeline, should inherit what would be Clayton’s share.

After an examination of the will, the court agreed that Clayton’s infant daughter, Adeline, was an “alternate beneficiary” of the gift to Clayton. Consequently, Adeline was entitled to what would have been Clayton’s share in his mother’s estate. Logan was not considered as an alternate beneficiary of his brother because he was a primary beneficiary of the estate’s value along with Clayton.

The court then ordered that Clayton’s share in the estate be paid to the PGT, to be held in trust for Adeline.

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