Thomas Gilbert Jr. is accused of murdering his own father, a wealthy New York hedge fund founder who was fatally shot earlier this month.
Gilbert has been arrested and faces a murder charge, as well as two weapons-related charges. This week, however, a new question emerged in the case: Could Gilbert inherit some of the fortune of the man he is accused of killing?
“His rights of inheritance depend on the actual intent of the killing, and the facts are not clear yet,” William Zabel, an estates attorney who is not working on the Gilbert case, told the New York Post. Zabel told the paper that, right now, the patricide issue remained a “real gray area.”
Authorities say the body of Thomas Gilbert Sr. — the founder of Wainscott Capital Partners Fund — was found in his Manhattan apartment last month. He had reportedly suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was declared dead at the scene.
His will was filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court on Wednesday, the New York Post reported, and it divided the inheritance among his wife, his daughter and his son.
The will says Thomas Gilbert Jr., 30, should receive quarterly payments from a trust in his name until he’s 35. After that he gets whatever is left in the account in a lump sum.
Naomi Cahn, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said the issue of inheritance can be a complicated one.
If the death is unintentional or accidental a person might be able to inherit, Cahn said, though the basic rule states that if you are convicted of killing a person, then you can’t benefit from his or her estate.
“The general law is that when you’ve killed someone, you don’t get to inherit,” Cahn told The Washington Post. “But then it’s a question of proving that you did actually kill the person.”
In 1914, for example, a man killed his wife but actually meant to kill her lover. That man collected his wife’s inheritance, Cahn said.
In a more recent case, a man was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with the death of his wife and was disqualified from receiving any inheritance.
“It’s too early to know. He may benefit,” Cahn said. “Depending on how the killing actually happened, he may inherit.”