Woman Killed by Husband who Committed Suicide not a Surviving Spouse

October 3, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has ruled the estate of a woman killed by her husband who then committed suicide is not due surviving spouse benefits from his pension plan.

According to the opinion, the court first ruled that the estate of Velton Lacefield-Cole was bound by its previous statements admitting that Lacefield-Cole died before Anthony E. Cole. The estate argued Illinois’ slayer’s rule, intended to prevent a party from acquiring a property interest through wrongful conduct, applied to the case and effectively reversed the order of death of Lacefield-Cole and Cole.

However, the court determined the only benefit accruing to Cole in this case would be the removal of the need to obtain Velton’s consent to his naming his children as beneficiaries, which the court said was “too remote to justify imposing a reversal of the order of the parties’ deaths.”

The case was brought by Catepillar, Inc. to resolve   conflicting claims for benefits from Cole’s pension account. Cole shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself. After his death his estate, Lacefield-Cole’s estate, and Cole’s two surviving children, all submitted a claim for survivor benefits under the plan.

The opinion in Caterpillar, Inc. v. the Estate of Velton Lacefield-Cole is here .