Article I, Section 21 of the Texas Constitution ("Corruption of Blood; Forfeiture of Estate; Suicides")

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

No conviction shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture of estate, and the estates of those who destroy their own lives shall descend or vest as in case of natural death.

Editor Comments

The Texas Attorney General, in Tex. Att'y Gen. Op. GA-632 (2008), opined that this section: "provides that 'no conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate,' which means that a person may not be denied the right to inherit on the basis of a criminal conviction. Texas courts have found limits to that provision in the Slayer's Rule and the constructive trust doctrine, which prevent a convicted murderer from receiving life insurance proceeds or inheriting property from the murder victim."

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions


Historic Decisions

  • Bounds v. Caudle, 560 S.W.2d 925, 928 (Tex. 1977) (citations omitted) ("This rule is particularly applicable here where the conviction was based upon plea bargaining. Texas courts have taken the position that the law will impose a constructive trust upon the property of a deceased which passed either by inheritance or by will if the beneficiary wilfully and wrongfully caused the death of the deceased. The trust is a creature of equity and does not contravene constitutional and statutory prohibitions against forfeiture because title to the property does actually pass to the killer. The trust operates to transfer the equitable title to the trust beneficiaries.")
  • Mitchell v. Akers, 401 S.W.2d 907, 911 (Tex.Civ.App.–Dallas 1966, n.r.e.) (citations omitted) ("Early decisions construed the constitutional provision and the statute literally and held that a willful murderer who was an heir of his victim, did not forfeit his right but would inherit his part of the property of the deceased. However, later decisions hold that without contravening or circumventing the constitutional and statutory provisions a way is provided through equity to compel a murderer to surrender the profits of his crime and thus . . . . Our Supreme Court in discussing Hill v. Noland, supra, impliedly approved the constructive trust principle.")
  • American National Insurance Co. v. Coates, 246 S.W. 356, 359 (Tex. 1923) ("It being the policy of the state, as declared by these constitutional and statutory provisions, that no conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate, as applied to the inheritable estate of the party executed, we cannot see any reason why the same declaration should not be made to apply to the proceeds of an insurance policy, payable to beneficiaries who were in no wise a party to the offense against the law, and, as in this case, who would be under our statute of descent and distribution the parties who would benefit by the inheritable estate.")
  • Davis v. Laning, 19 S.W. 846, 846 (Tex. 1892) ("Attainders, outlawry, deprivation of property except by due process of law, and the corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate, as a result of conviction of crime, are expressly prohibited by the organic law. Const. art. 1, §§ 16, 19-21. Section 21 declares that . . . . This provision is invoked by the plaintiffs in error, but it aids their case no further than a declaration that a convict may either inherit himself or transmit inheritance. It does not attempt to determine at what time the descent of his estate shall be cast, but excludes this idea by the express regulation concerning the estates of suicides.")

Library Resources

Online Resources