Trusts and Estates
January 16, 2002
Ford v. Ford
512 A.2d 389 (Court of App. of Md.)
Rule(s) of Law: One who kills another may inherit under the victim’s will only if the killing was
not felonious and not intentional (although most jurisdictions have extended this rule to the
recklessness of manslaughter as well (i.e., the killing must not be reckless [see Bird v. Plunkett, a
Connecticut case referenced on pg. 24]).
Thus, one who kills another while insane does not
commit a felonious killing, for that person is not held criminally liable, and thus MAY inherit
under the will of the person that he/she killed.
Facts and Procedural History: Pearl Ford murdered her mother by hacking her into pieces and
throwing her remains into a garbage can.
She stood to inherit everything under the will.
brother, George Benjamin Ford, Jr. only stood to inherit under his mother’s will if Pearl pre-
deceased her mother.
When Pearl tried to collect, George blocked her.
George won at trial;
Pearl appealed and won at the intermediate level. George then appealed to the court in this case,
which held in Pearl’s favor.
Issue(s): Where no slayer statute exists, what is the common law of Maryland regarding the
inheritance potential of a beneficiary who kills a testator?
Holding(s): The common law of Maryland (and many other jurisdictions) is that a beneficiary
who feloniously and intentionally kills a testator is not a beneficiary insofar as the law is
concerned and may not inherit or take property under the will of the testator/testatrix who has
Rationale: A basic rule in equity teaches that one may not profit from his or her wrong, fraud, or
While some legislatures have passed laws allowing for one who kills a testator to inherit,
this is not the case in Maryland, the state’s law following historically-held notions of justice,
equity, and morality.
Thus, it is the basic rule of Maryland that a murderer, or his heirs or
representatives through him, ordinarily may not profit by taking any portion of the estate of the
However, Pearl was insane in this case and thus, there is a qualification here of the general rule
to be reckoned with, simply put as follows: The slayer’s rule in Maryland is not applicable when
the killer was not criminally responsible at the time he committed the homicide. The insane
person is not to be punished and is therefore not criminally liable. Being not criminally liable, the
killing of the insane person may be said to be intentional but NOT felonious.
It is only where a
killing is both intentional and felonious that the slayer’s rule may apply.
Here, the killing was
not felonious, and as a result, Pearl inherits.
Dissent: If an insane killer has intentionally killed a victim—if such a killer has acted with the