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Willingham v. Matthews

Supreme Court of Alabama

September 19, 2014

Debora Willingham, as the administrator of the Estate of Brandy Matthews, deceased
v.
Rodney Matthews, as the administrator of the Estate of Joshua Taylor Matthews, deceased

Released for Publication May 15, 2015.

Appeal from DeKalb Circuit Court, CV-13-900066. Jeremy S. Taylor, Trial Judge.

For Appellant: Summer L. McWhorter, Centre.

For Appellee: Tamara W. Neeley, W.N. Watson, Fort Payne.

WISE, Justice. Moore, C.J., and Stuart, Parker, and Shaw, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 1017

WISE, Justice.

Debora Willingham, as the administrator of the estate of Brandy Matthews, deceased (" Willingham" ), appeals from a summary judgment entered by the DeKalb Circuit Court (" the trial court" ) on her complaint for a judgment declaring the rights, duties, and liabilities of the parties under § 43-8-253, Ala. Code 1975, which is known as " the Slayer's Statute."

Facts and Procedural History

Brandy Matthews and Joshua Taylor Matthews were married in September 2004. On March 20 or March 21, 2011, Brandy died as a result of gunshot wounds inflicted by Joshua. Brandy's death was determined to be a homicide. On the same date, Joshua died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Brandy and Joshua both died intestate. Willingham, Brandy's mother, was appointed by the DeKalb Probate Court as the administrator of Brandy's estate. Rodney Matthews (" Matthews" ), Joshua's brother, was appointed by the DeKalb Probate Court as the administrator of Joshua's estate.

On March 20, 2013, Willingham filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment in the trial court, stating that there was a justiciable controversy between Brandy's estate and Joshua's estate as to their respective rights, duties, and liabilities based on Willingham's interpretation of § 43-8-253. She contended that, upon application of § 43-8-253,

" Joshua Taylor Matthews would have been unable to inherit from Brandy Matthews. Furthermore, based upon the actions of Joshua Taylor Matthews, his property is to pass as if he had predeceased [Brandy Matthews]. In other words, the estate of Joshua Taylor Matthews would pass to his spouse, Brandy Matthews. In this instance, the estate of Joshua Taylor Matthews should pass directly to the estate of Brandy Matthews."

On November 19, 2013, Willingham filed a motion for a summary judgment. Based on her interpretation of § 43-8-253, she argued that Joshua's estate should pass directly to Brandy's estate. On January 14, 2014, Matthews filed a response to the motion for a summary judgment. He argued that § 43-8-253 addresses only how Brandy's estate would pass but not how Joshua's ...


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