Dead Schunk in the Middle of a Row: Wisconsin Court Rules That Family Members Can Inherit Estate After Assisting in Suicide

A very interesting ruling out of Wisconsin this week on assisted suicide and inheritance. Judge Margaret Vergeront ruled that Linda Schunk, and youngest child, Megan, may inherit the estate of Edward Schunk, 63, even if they assisted him in killing himself. Schunk effectively disinherited six of his children and left most everything to Linda and Megan before committing suicide at a cabin with their alleged help. This led to a family row over the role of Linda and Megan allegedly in enriching themselves by arming Ed.

Edward Schunk was terminally ill with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and shot himself in 2006 in a cabin on his property. He left an estate valued at nearly $500,000.

Wisconsin law prohibits anyone who “intentionally kills” another from inheriting from the person. Yet, the three-judge appellate panel saw a distinction here: “Providing (the man) with a loaded shotgun did not deprive him of his life: he deprived himself of life by shooting himself with the shotgun.

He left virtually nothing to his six other children — five of whom are challenging the will. They have argued that Linda and Megan facilitated his death to collect the money. They insist that they did not assist him and that he said that he wanted the gun to go turkey hunting.

The Court ruled that it didn’t matter and that, even if they assisted him, they could still recover.
Megan Schunk’s lawyer, Terry Moore, called it a “one-in-a-million situation.” Well, it was at least a one in a half million situation for the Schunks. What is fascinating is that handing a gun to a suicidal person was criminally charged recently in another case, here.

For the full story, click here.

2 thoughts on “Dead Schunk in the Middle of a Row: Wisconsin Court Rules That Family Members Can Inherit Estate After Assisting in Suicide”

  1. I see the distinction that Rafflaw is drawing here, but I have to frame this in broader terms:

    Ultimately, Edward Schunk owns his life. No one else does. Mr. Schunk is not a slave. He should be able to choose to live his life, or not, based on his own judgment and ideals. It doesn’t matter if we would disagree with Mr Schunk’s ideals personally, since we can’t own his life.

    If Mr Schunk chose to abbreviate his life by smoking, should anyone who allowed him access to tobacco be restricted from his inheritance?

    If Mr Schunk is in pain and chooses to overdose on prescribed opiates to end his life, has his physician or pharmacist assisted in his suicide? Should they be charged with a crime?

    Think of the advancement to human decency when society recognizes that those in horrifying pain, or those facing incapacitation or imprisonment in their bodies, be allowed to complete their lives with grace should they choose to do so. I hope that I am fortunate to never have to make that choice myself. However, I would condemn a society that would deny that choice to me, or punish those that assist in that choice.

  2. I don’t get how this court could rule that giving a suicidal person the means to commit suicide is not “aiding” in killing him. Usually I see Wisconsin courts are progressive in certain areas, but this result is far from being progressive. And for two courts to come to the same result is also disconcerting. I hope that the Wisconsin Supreme Court can hear this one.

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