Can A Corpse Become A Ward Of The State?

Here are the relevant facts from a horrifying case of child abuse in Iowa: teenager is adopted. Adoptive parents take out life insurance policies totaling $35K on her. Adoptive parents murder her and go to trial. Although in this actual case the trial is ongoing, assume for this thought experiment that they’ve been found guilty of murder.

So there’s $35K floating around out there, and no one to receive it. Having murdered their daughter, both adoptive parents are disqualified from the money, both by Iowa law and insurance company bylaws. The teen’s siblings are all minors. Her adoptive parents are nowhere to be found.

Is the corpse then considered a ward of the state, and the insurance money given to the state’s general fund? Or are the policies null and void for lack of a beneficiary?

IANAL but every life insurance policy I’ve seen pays either to the contract’s owner (in this case probably the parents so ineligible) or to the estate if none of the beneficiaries can collect. So in this case I’d think it would go to the decedent’s estate.

Assuming she has no will, it would be distributed as state law dictates. Again as the adoptive parents can’t collect, the siblings are probably the next heirs in line.

If the heir cannot be found, I think all states hold unclaimed funds for some time for distribution before they become state property. I can’t imagine they stay with the insurance company.

There is a listed beneficiary in the case you describe. If the law disqualifies them from a payout, then payout would go to the listed contingent beneficiary. If there is no (innocent) contingent beneficiary listed on the policy, then payout would go to the estate of the murder victim, to then be handled according to the dictates of the victim’s will. If the victim had no will, then their estate would go to probate court. Not sure how it would get decided at that point. Assuredly the state would automatically take a hefty chunk of the victim’s estate as payment for having to process the estate through probate court.

Presumably it would go the statutory next-of-kin, same as for anyone who dies intestate. I don’t see any reason to assume that “the state would automatically take a hefty chunk”; does that normally happen in your state when someone dies intestate?

I’m not sure why you think that minors can’t inherit money. There’s likely to be restrictions of some sort, like putting the money in a trust, but they can inherit.

What a vile story.
Whilst murdering kids, natural or adopted, is as old as insurance itself, I can see no reason why any company should be allowed to insure a minor under any circumstance.

I am aware of infanticide for money in Victorian Britain mainly [ cf. baby farming as a related activity ], but I’m sure it happened in America at that time, and France, and most civilised places.

To be fair, we hanged baby farmers when we could; sadly, not insurance executives.

Do minors not die, either by accident or illness? Do you know how much a funeral costs? Do you want to give your child a first class funeral? Do you know how little it costs to insure a young one because, statistically, few of them die?

I would rather give the child a paupers funeral than be party to a system that colludes with other children being murdered for money.
Not like the dead care how they are buried.

Life insurance on adults can also be a motiviation for murder. Do you “collude” with that by effecting insurance on your own life or that of any other adult?

You mean birth parents, not adoptive parents? The adoptive parents are the ones who killed her.

I disagree. What’s wrong with having a policy on a child that’s sufficient to pay for a funeral, should the unthinkable happen?

Sometimes… Double Indemnity. However I only specified minors.

Not that I would care to claim money for my wife dying.

My Father bought $1,000 worth of Life Insurance for $15 a Year, for me in 1954 shortly after I was born because of health related reasons. It was to cover Funeral expenses.

Entirely prudent and appropriate IMHO. As for Insurance being an inducement to murder, the fact that both the State and most Insurance companies have laws or clauses that prevent the murderer(s) from getting the insurance payout should suffice to illuminate the issues.

As for accepting an insurance payout after a loved one’s death, what if there are huge medical bills, or other debts?
No one can know the time of their death, a payout in the face of the unexpected death of a primary breadwinner, and you are going to decline?


My son has the same whole life policy my parents bought for me when I was an infant. It paid dividends, and I got $1000 when I was 20, right before I went to study at Gallaudet (1987 money). It paid for the road trip there, and my books and most of my expenses while I was on campus. If I had died as a child, it would have just about covered my funeral. Now that I am fifty, it is worth about 5 times what my funeral will cost. The rest goes to my son as the primary beneficiary.

When I was growing up, once a year, I got a little dividend check that was fun to get. by the time I was ten, it was about $10.

My son gets the same little surprise check every year, which we let him keep, and his funeral is covered, if, G-d forbid, something happens to him. The policy continues to earn interest, which reinvests, and he will have a tidy sum he can borrow against if he ever needs to, and leave to his family that I hope he has eventually.

That’s the kind of insurance it’s appropriate, and prudent, to take out on a child. A baby doesn’t need a physical, so if my son (or I, for that matter) had ever developed a condition that precluded life insurance, we either wouldn’t be able to get it, or would pay an exorbitant fee every month.

We pay a small fee right now for our son’s policy, but after the policy matures, there is no need to make any more payments (after twenty years), and at that point, the interest keeps reinvesting. I don’t make payments on mine.

My mother had the same policy, and my brother and I each got $18,000 after the expenses of her funeral.

Nothing suspicious in a whole life policy. But I assume the family had term life. The only children who need term life are children who are starring on a TV show, or teenagers who are Olympic athletes. You insure them against the loss of future earnings in the event of death or disability that precludes them from working.

Term life on a minor with no current earning potential is a huge red flag. It probably should be illegal.

Actually no it is not. You would do better buying a term-policy for say 20 years to cover funeral expenses and invest what you save by not paying whole-life (or universal-life) premiums.

Absolutely. In my state, the fiduciary commissioner would place the money into a trust, appoint a trustee, and the money would be administered by the trustee until the minor child/children turned 18 years old.

My parents were notorious for saving ALL of their paper documents. In the case of this anecdote, in a set of Manila folders in a desk drawer in Dad’s office.

Anyway. Some 45 years ago, give or take, I was going through one of those folders, and came upon an 8 X 10 B&W photo of my parents sitting at the dinner table, and a man in a suit handing them a check. When I asked what it was, my Mom told me it was an insurance man handing them the life insurance payout from the death of my younger brother (at the age of about six weeks).

I never thought to inquire why they had a life insurance policy on an infant (benefit from Dad’s job, maybe?), or why they had a photographer present. They’re both gone now, so I guess that will remain shrouded in mystery. But it’s a data point that demonstrates that a life insurance policy on a baby need not be obtained for nefarious purposes.

Even a “paupers funeral” can be expensive. And heaven forbid you should be struck with medical bills if something happened to your child.