Should the daughter of a man who murdered his mother get part of her dead grandmother’s inheritance?
That is the tragic legal question a B.C. Supreme Court justice had to examine recently, and the answer was “yes.”
In 2018, Clayton Warkentin was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years for the brutal killing of his mother Lois Unger.
On Feb. 24, 2016, Clayton asphyxiated his 51-year-old mother, Lois Unger, to death in her Yarrow home then crudely tried to make it look like a suicide.
The then 19-year-old body builder’s addiction to steroids led to an addiction to cocaine, subsequent dealing in the narcotic, and a real or perceived threat of debts to local drug dealers.
Witnesses in his circle of friends told Crown that Warkentin told them he might kill his mother for the insurance money, a level of planning that led to the charge of first-degree murder. This was later suggested as nothing more than a sick joke, something Crown counsel believed and allowed for the plea to the lesser-included charge of second-degree murder.
In the B.C. Supreme Court judgment of Feb. 7, 2022 regarding Unger’s estate, Justice Robert Jenkins was left to consider if Clayton was disentitled from his share of the estate and if so, to whom should his share go to.
Unger was a widow when she was murdered and was survived by her two sons, Clayton and Logan. In Canada there is a public policy, that as been upheld by legal precedent, that says the person responsible for another person’s death cannot take any benefit from the criminal act.
Prior to Unger’s death, the court hear that he was in a relationship with Savannah Brandies, and they had a baby girl “Adeline” born on March 6, 2016, just 11 days after Unger’s murder.
“The issue before me, since Clayton no longer has any interest in the Estate, is to determine who should inherit what was to be Clayton’s portion of his mother’s estate: his daughter Adeline, Logan, or two charities which were named as alternate beneficiaries under the will?” Justice Jenkins wrote in the decision.
Submissions by the executors of the will determined the portion of inheritance that would not go to Clayton should either go to Adeline or two charities Unger mentioned in her will, Ruth & Naomi’s and B.C. Teen Challenge.
Logan’s submission was that since the rule of public policy says the person responsible for the death is not entitled to benefit, this should extend to his daughter. His argument was that he should be the alternate beneficiary and receive the entire estate.
Justice Jenkins determined that Logan was a primary beneficiary and not listed as an alternative beneficiary, and that Adeline was indeed an alternate under her grandmother’s wishes.
“The property which was destined for Clayton is to be distributed to the alternate beneficiaries of the gift named or described by the will-maker who are described by the will-maker as ‘any children of any child of mine,’” Justice Jenkins wrote.
“The clear intent in the will was that should either of Ms. Unger’s children predecease her … any children of her children who are alive at her death or are en ventre sa mere (an unborn fetus) should receive the deceased child’s share.”
While Clayton is not deceased, he can no longer be a beneficiary and the judge determined his daughter is an alternate beneficiary under the law and following Unger’s wishes in her will.
Clayton continues to serve his sentence in the Pacific Institution in Abbotsford.
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