On last night’s Justice Interrupted show Robin Sax and Susan Murphy-Milano invited UCLA Law School professor and partner in the Personal Planning Department of Proskauer Rose, Andy Katzenstein, to talk about the estate and will of Kathleen as well as the status of Stacy Peterson’s estate.
On looking over Drew and Kathleen’s will which was written up on March 2nd, 1997, Katzenstein had three observations about it:
- The will is odd. Usually a husband draws up his own will and a wife draws up her own. You shouldn’t write up a joint will, but that’s what this one is.
- It’s obvious that no lawyer had a hand in writing up the will. It’s hand-written on a a legal pad. There’s probably nothing fraudulent about it but it was obviously drawn up by people who had no idea what they were doing.
- The will only says what happens if they both die. It doesn’t say what happens if he dies or she dies individually.
Katzenstein said, “The interesting thing with a joint will is they didn’t each write it out. One or the other of them wrote it out and then they both signed it. So it can really only stand as a holographic will for the person who wrote it, not for both of them even though they tried to do a joint, holographic will. So the bottom line is she must have written it if that will is admitted into probate. it’s the only way it got in.”
It’s interesting to note that in a Fox News interview from January 2008, Drew said he is the one who wrote out the will. “I wrote up the will with Kathleen’s instructions and we simply had a couple friends that were over to witness it and that was that simple.” If that is true, then the will could only apply to Drew and not Kathleen.
But regardless, Katzenstein said that the will is meaningless mainly because it states only what is to happen in the even that both Drew and Kathleen were to die, not what would happen in the event that either of them passed away individually. Essentially, Kathleen had no will and in that case the laws of intestacy say who would inherit. Katzenstein says in Kathleen’s case the inheritance would go to her spouse.
What no one brought up on the show is that Kathleen had no spouse at the time of her death. She and Drew were divorced, so what do the laws of intestacy say then?
“Public policy is if you kill somebody you can’t inherit from them.”
Katzenstein went on to explain that if Drew were to be charged and convicted of either woman’s death then he would easily fall under the Slayer Statute. The conviction would be taken to probate court and the judge would rule that he could not inherit.
Interestingly, it isn’t necessary to have a conviction in order to disinherit a murderer under the slayer statute. You would only need to convince the judge in the probate court that the deceased is a victim of felonious and intentional killing. If the Savio family is able to reopen Kathleen’s estate, would Drew fall under this Slayer Statute?
Katzenstein was asked about Stacy’s estate and the shared marital assets the Drew appears to be dispersing. Can anything be done about him signing over the title of Stacy’s car, or giving away her jewelry and clothing? He answered that someone representing Stacy’s kids would need to get into court to stop him, “The judge on his own isn’t going to say ‘I read this in the paper so I’m not going to distribute anything.'”
Who is going to step in to represent those kids?
Big thanks to Justice Interrupted for attempting to get to the bottom of some of the nagging legal questions about the estates of these two women! As always, thanks to ACR for the great library of resources.
Play or download the show (Choose 3/17/2009 show. Discussion begins about forty minutes in)