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Life insurance payouts and slayer statutes add to family’s burden

Wed May 28th, 2014 on     Insurance Claims,    

When Miami businessman Ben Novack Jr. died, his estate was worth about $10 million. He left everything to his wife, Narcy, but five years later, family members are still arguing over the will and its validity. And, the estate is worth much less, according to court documents — as little as $4 million.

Whatever happens with the estate, one thing is for sure: Narcy Novack will not see a dime. A jury took her out of the running for insurance proceeds and inheritance by convicting her of Ben’s and his mother’s murders. Florida, like most states, has a “slayer” statute that prohibits someone “who unlawfully and intentionally kills or participates in procuring the death of the decedent” from collecting “any benefits under the will.” The same rule holds true for life insurance policies.

According to Estate of Denial, the Novack estate includes the payouts from both Ben’s and his mother’s life policies, but the case may never settle. It may even suffer the fate of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the will contest in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House that ends with the heir finally identified but the estate worth nothing.

For the family of another murder victim, though, a federal court settled a life insurance dispute recently that may or may not put the matter to rest. The case pitted the presumed killer’s family against the victim’s family and tested the limits of Washington state’s own slayer statute.

The story begins with the 2009 disappearance of Susan Powell, wife of Josh Powell and mother of his two children. Josh was a suspect but was never arrested. Police say now that his story — or stories, really — never made sense and didn’t hold up to scrutiny, but they did not have a body and they did not have a crime scene. Josh eventually moved from Utah and Washington.

The situation only got worse. We’ll continue this in our next post.


KOMO News, “Judge splits Josh, Susan Powell insurance money,” Associated Press, May 19, 2014

Miami Herald, “As family fight continues, Ben Novack Jr. fortunes shrink,” Julie K. Brown, Feb. 24, 2014

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