A “wrongful death” claim is created when an actor’s negligence or intentional act causes another person’s death. However, any settlement or verdict from a wrongful death claim generally does not pass through the deceased person’s estate, regardless of whether the deceased person had a will, trust, or no instruments at all.
This is because the deceased person does not own the wrongful death claim. The natural heirs of the deceased person, including the surviving spouse, any blood or adopted children, and often the surviving parents and siblings of the deceased person own the wrongful death claim. Thus, the natural heirs of the deceased person are entitled to the proceeds of the wrongful death claim. However, in some circumstances, if the deceased person was entitled to their own personal injury claim, certain portions of a settlement or verdict will be considered the deceased person’s property. Therefore, some portion of the settlement or verdict may pass through the deceased person’s estate, just as the deceased person’s other assets and personal property. For an assessment of your potential wrongful death, personal injury, or probate issues under Missouri or Illinois law, contact The Law Office of Christopher J. Levy, LLC.