40 Years Later: New Clues Emerge in Natalie Wood’s Death

NatalieLikely, the only result of the current investigation into the death of Natalie Wood might be a change to the beneficiary of her estate.

As the surviving witnesses to Natalie Wood’s 1981 death come forward to change their stories, her 88-year-old husband Robert Wagner is once again “a person of interest.”  Robert Wagner has remarried and still works in television. Few believe he’ll ever go to trial at this point or even be formally charged. However, Wagner may be concerned about the impact of the investigation on his net worth. Complications could break the standard rules of inheritance.

Wood’s will designated Wagner as executor and trustee of the funds she left to her daughters, as well as heir to half her estate. This estate planning was straightforward and even sensible at the time because Wagner and Wood were married and had a blended family of three children. The trust let her pass on her wealth without taxes.

However, California prohibits anyone who participates in a felonious murder to profit from the victim’s estate. If Wagner was involved in foul play on that boat back in 1981, he should’ve been locked out of Wood’s assets. If the slayer statute applies, it supersedes the will. The trusts were created when she died, so arguably those beneficiary assignments could also be negated.

It’s been 36 years since the will went through probate. That is a very long time to claw back assets if the Los Angeles County Sheriff really does have compelling new evidence that Wagner was involved. Although there’s no statute of limitations on murder, there aren’t many cases that show the slayer statute applying to crimes that go back decades.

The legitimate heirs would need to sue to prevent unjust enrichment, establishing a “debt” that would need to be collected within a relatively short period.  However, with the investigation dormant for so long, there was technically no crime and thus no action to file within the normal time limit. Now the other heirs (the daughters) are grown and have received their share of the estate. Who knows if they’d want to make their dad give up his half. There also may not even be much of Wood’s money left.

After the girls, it’s hard to find anyone who would still feel cheated by Wagner benefiting from Wood’s estate. Both parents are dead now, and her sisters received lump sums, limiting their inheritance.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (February 11, 2018) “Natalie Wood Estate Back In Play: Did Her Killer Inherit Her Millions?”


Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment


We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.