Americans continue to be fascinated by the death of Natalie Wood, as her death remains an unsolved mystery.
It’s been a long time since actress Natalie Wood drowned and Hollywood buzzed with accusations. Recently, two new survivors have spoken to the news media, and the spotlight is shining, once again, on her husband, Robert Wagner, now 88.
Wealth Advisor’s recent article, “Natalie Wood Estate Back In Play: Did Her Killer Inherit Her Millions?” explains that he’s remarried and still works in television. Few believe he’ll ever go to trial at this point or even be formally charged. However, Wagner may be concerned about the impact of the investigation on his net worth. Complications could break the standard rules of inheritance.
Wood’s will designated Wagner as executor and trustee of the funds she left to her daughters, as well as heir to half her estate. This estate planning was straightforward and even sensible at the time, because Wagner and Wood were married and had a blended family of three children. The trust let her pass on her wealth without taxes.
However, California prohibits anyone who participates in a felonious murder to profit from the victim’s estate. If Wagner was involved in foul play on that boat back in 1981, he should’ve been locked out of Wood’s assets. If the slayer statute applies, it supersedes the will. The trusts were created when she died, so arguably those beneficiary assignments could also be negated.
It’s been 36 years since the will went through probate. That is a very long time to claw back assets, if the Los Angeles County Sheriff really does have compelling new evidence that Wagner was involved. Although there’s no statute of limitations on murder, there aren’t many cases that show the slayer statute applying to crimes that go back decades.
The legitimate heirs would need to sue to prevent unjust enrichment, establishing a “debt” that would need to be collected within a relatively short period. However, with the investigation dormant for so long, there was technically no crime and thus no action to file within the normal time limit. Now the other heirs (the daughters) are grown and have received their share of the estate. Who knows if they’d want to make their dad to give up his half. There also may not even be much of Wood’s money left.
So much time has passed by, and the amount of money that’s in question makes it unlikely that the interest in her death is focused on a redistribution of her estate. Her bequests have already been distributed and enriched the lives of her loved ones. This may be one mystery that is never solved.
Reference: Wealth Advisor (February 11, 2018) “Natalie Wood Estate Back In Play: Did Her Killer Inherit Her Millions?”
Holden & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis Estate Planning Attorneys