Taylor Swift is a Legal Genius in More Ways Than One

By: Katie Simers.

A Single from Her Latest Album Incorporates Important Legal Concepts for Trust and Estate Planning

On October 21, 2022, Taylor Swift released her tenth studio album entitled Midnights. One of the most popular singles from the album, “Anti-Hero,” debuted at the top of “the all-genre, multi-metric Billboard Hot 100 dated Nov. 5, 2022, as Swift made history as the first artist to infuse the chart’s entire top 10 in a single week, with all tracks all from her latest album, Midnights. The song went on to spend a personal-best eight weeks at No. 1.”[1]

But “Anti-Hero” is more than just a popular song; it brings to light an important legal concept in trust and estate planning commonly referred to as the Slayer Rule (or the Slayer Statute). In the song “Anti-Hero,” Swift sings about the following hypothetical scenario:

“I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money

She thinks I left them in the will

The family gathers ’round and reads it

And then someone screams out

‘She’s laughing up at us from h***!'”

Taylor Swift, “Anti-Hero.”[2] While it is exceptionally important to add specific disinheritance language to your estate plan if you wish to make sure someone will not inherit from you, in this instance, under California law, there are additional protections for Swift: enter the Slayer Statute. At a very basic level, this statute provides that if someone intentionally and feloniously kills another person, they are not allowed to profit from it and would effectively forfeit any type of inheritance from the victim – whether this inheritance would come through a trust, a will, life insurance policies, or through the state’s laws of intestacy.[3] The Slayer Statute is specifically in place to deter individuals from murdering family members or spouses for their inheritance. A conviction of felonious and intentional killing is conclusive for the purposes of the Slayer Statute; however, the rule does not apply to any individual who was determined to have killed by accident or in self-defense.[4] In Swift’s hypothetical scenario then, if her daughter-in-law was convicted (or, in the alternative, if a court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the killing was felonious and intentional for purposes under the Slayer Statute), she would not be able to inherit. A scenario, by the way, that no Swiftie ever wants to consider. Instead, she would be treated as though she predeceased Swift.[5]

Therefore, even if Swift in this scenario had not specifically disinherited her daughter-in-law in her will, the Slayer Statute would likely prevent the daughter-in-law from inheriting anything from Swift’s estate.

            Another legal concept to note from the song “Anti-Hero,” Swift depicts a group reading of her will, with all her family members present. This is a tradition that has mostly fallen by the wayside and is only typically reflected in movies and television for dramatic effect. An actual reading of a will in real life is very rare and not general practice anymore.

Lucky for us, this hypothetical scenario was just a part of Swift’s dream and not reality. But with a net-worth of $740 million according to Forbes as of June 1, 2023,[6] it is no wonder that Swift might have dreams or concerns about protecting her legacy through her estate plan. It is an important step for everyone, not just those with large estates like Swift. It may not top the charts as the most fun topic to think about, but letting your family and friends know what your wishes are after passing is invaluable. If you own property in California, having an estate plan is specifically important – and not just an estate plan – but a revocable living trust (“RLT”). A RLT is the gold standard in estate planning and is what the estate planning attorneys at Odom Law Group would highly recommend.

Swift’s song also points out how important it is to keep your estate plan updated. Circumstances change constantly and it is important to update your wishes. We generally recommend reviewing and updating your estate plan at least every five years, although in some instances that timing may be different depending on each client’s circumstances. Reach out to us at (661) 367-1699 and set up an estate planning consultation with the estate planning attorneys at Odom Law Group today for more information.

[1] Billboard Top Music Charts: https://www.billboard.com/music/chart-beat/taylor-swift-anti-hero-number-one-adult-contemporary-chart-1235288893/

[2]  TAYLOR SWIFT, Anti-Hero, on MIDNIGHTS (Republic Records 2022).

[3]  Prob. Code, § 250.

[4] Prob. Code, § 254

[5] Prob. Code, § 250.

[6] https://www.forbes.com/profile/taylor-swift/?sh=13af292818e2