The aftermath of a high-profile police shooting incident in Cincinnati illustrates a central tenet of estate law when a person passes away without an estate plan.
The death of Sam DuBose received massive media attention and sparked national outrage. In July, DuBose was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer as DuBose was pulling away from a traffic stop.
The now former officer is being charged with murder in the incident.
DuBose was not married and had 11 children. One of the issues in the case was who would pursue a wrongful death claim against the university.
As Cincinnati.com reports in "Settlement talks to begin in DuBose case" that issue has been resolved.
Both DuBose's mother and father applied in probate court to be given management of the estate, although his mother later withdrew her application. Instead of appointing one of these older relatives, the court has appointed DuBose's 18-year-old daughter.
The reason for this is an important principle of estate law: if an unmarried person passes away without naming a personal representative (executor) for the estate, then a strong preference is to appoint a child. In this case, the daughter was judged to be competent and capable of managing the estate, so she was appointed.
Although a wrongful death case against the University of Cincinnati has not been filed yet, it appears that the school is eager to settle this case as quickly as possible. The daughter will most likely be managing a few million dollars in the foreseeable future and she will need to distribute the funds fairly to DuBose's other family members.
Reference: Cincinnati.com (Nov. 19, 2015) "Settlement talks to begin in DuBose case"