“I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money
She thinks I left them in the will
The family gathers ’round and reads it and then someone screams out
‘She’s laughing up at us from hell’”
Taylor Swift, “Anti-Hero”
It’s not every day that one of the most popular recording artists in the world references wills and estates in a hit song. While most of us have probably heard this song by now, I would be remiss if I passed up the opportunity to analyze this passage through the lens of Ontario law.
“I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money, she thinks I left them in the will”
The Criminal Forfeiture Rule (also known as the Slayer Rule), which has been approved by Canadian courts, holds that a person cannot profit from their crime. If the daughter-in-law was a beneficiary under the Will, she would not be able to receive her gift if she had murdered the testator.
However, it is not clear on the lyrics whether the daughter-in-law is included in the Will and she committed the murder with the intention that she should inherit, or whether her spouse (the testator’s child) was included (or thought to be included) in the Will and her intention was that the daughter-in-law’s spouse would inherit and that she would be able to share in those proceeds with him/her as part of their family assets. If the gift was to the daughter-in-law’s spouse and the spouse’s Will directed their own estate back to the daughter-in-law, it is less clear whether this kind of indirect benefit would be disallowed.
“The family gathers’ round and reads it”
Although group “readings” of a Will have been popularized in pop culture, disclosure of the terms of a deceased person’s Will usually does not happen in this manner. Typically, either the executor him/herself or a lawyer they have hired will distribute copies the Will to the beneficiaries by mail or e-mail. Sometimes this is done at the same time as an Application for a Certificate of Appointment With A Will is served on the beneficiaries.
“someone screams out ‘She’s laughing up at us from hell’”
Depending on your family situation at the time of your death, you may or may not have any obligations to support certain individuals via your estate. A discussion of the rights of spouses and other dependants is beyond the scope of this article and if you have questions about this, you should consult with a lawyer. However, it is possible that the testator in “Anti-Hero” did not have any obligations to anyone at the time of her death. In that case, she would have been free to distribute her estate to whomever or whatever she desired (subject to some public policy exceptions, which are also beyond the scope of this article).
Although it is very common for testators to distribute their estates to their immediate family members, if the testator’s children were all independent adults, she was not supporting any other family members financially, and she either did not have a spouse or was not obligated to provide support to a spouse (perhaps due to having executed a domestic contract with them), she may have been quite able to disinherit her family members who were expecting to inherit under the Will.
Does any of the above make you listen to “Anti-Hero” differently? Thanks for reading!