April 18th’s New York Law Journal features a decision by Richmond County (Staten Island) Surrogate John A. Fusco holding that the estate of a deceased husband who had shot his wife to death would be barred from inheriting her portion of the couple’s home even though he had not been actually adjudicated as a murderer.
Matter of Catherine Stiehler, A-20/04 is a bizarre one indeed. Prior to killing his wife, the decedent killed her dog and two cats and was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment at a local hospital. Shortly after shooting and killing his wife, the decedent was hospitalized for pneumonia and subsequently died. Arguments that he was “so overcome with debilitating mental illness that his illness caused him to end his wife’s life” were brushed aside by the court as was an application for a “psychiatric autopsy” by a forensic psychiatrist.
As a result of the court’s decision, the tenancy by the entirety of the couple’s home was converted, in effect, into a tenancy in common. The husband’s estate is therefore to receive only the half which he had owned with his wife’s interest in the property passing to her estate.