Vice Chancellor Finds Slayer Statute Not Applicable

IMO the Est. of George Wroten Cordray and Robert L. Lane, Admin. for the Estate of George Wroten Cordray, C.A. No. 2022-0614-SG (May 19, 2023)

          In this case, the administrator of an intestate estate (the “Administrator”) filed a petition seeking instructions to assist in determining the decedent’s heirs.  

          In 1955, Norris Cordray killed his wife, Emma, then killed himself. A child of that marriage was George, the decedent in this case. George passed away in 1988, intestate. An estate was opened in 1988 but, notwithstanding the passing of a rather considerable amount of time, the estate remains open. The Court noted that the reasons for that long delay were not pertinent to this decision.

          A genealogical search was conducted to ascertain George’s next of kin and that investigation revealed that George’s closest relatives are descendants of his grandparents Roy Wroten and Viola Shull through Emma’s (mother’s) lineage, and grandparents George and Mary Cordray through Norris’s (father’s) lineage.

          The Administrator raised the arguable applicability of Delaware’s “Slayer Statute.” 12 Del. C. § 2322. Delaware’s Slayer Statute codified common law and provides that “[t]he slayer shall be deemed to have predeceased” the victim for purposes of inheritance.  Speaking of the Administrator, the Vice Chancellor explained, “[h]e asserts that, on account of slaying Emma, Norris not only is prohibited from benefiting from Emma’s estate; the heirs of his lineage (and, pertinently, the lineage of Norris’s parents) are likewise precluded from inheriting from Emma’s issue.” The Vice Chancellor then stated that the present question was apparently one of first impression in Delaware.

          After examining the Administrator’s position and the rather limited possibly precedential Delaware case law, the Vice Chancellor concluded that the Slayer Statute was inapplicable to this matter. Specifically the Court stated, “[b]ecause the slaying has no effect in the current situation, there is no reason to construe Section 2322 to do anything other than what it explicitly calls for—to deem Norris as the predecessor of Emma—which, again, has no effect on the issue before me.”  Further refining the point, the Court later noted that “[t]he kin of Norris who happen to be next of kin of George are not inheriting from Norris’s estate,  and are not benefiting from Norris’ actions.”


William M. Kelleher, Director
Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, P.A.