5

First off,

  • The question is an actual Earth (American version, if jurisdiction matters) legal one

  • It was inspired by Star Wars Episode VII, "The Force Awakens" related question on SciFi.SE site.

    As such it contains spoilers for an important plot twist in the film, so please continue reading at your own risk.

Let's pretend that Millenium Falcon is a regular, Earth human trading freighter ship, registered to US flag.

It has an owner-captain (Han Solo), and a First Mate (Chewbacca) who is second in command. Both are US citizens.

Question: If the owner-operator dies - and absent any specific documents like a will, or joint ownership papers - does the First Mate inherit the freighter, in preference to the "standard" inheritance chain - wife and children? (assume that the wife is alive and can claim inheritance, to avoid complicated legal fallback scenarios)

If it matters, let's assume it's registered in whichever state LucasFilm (or Disney) headquarters are.

  • Ownership should pass to his wife if she's still alive and they're not divorced (this part is unclear). Otherwise it would be his son, but since his son caused his death, most states have laws prevented you from profiting from murder, so the son cannot inherit. In that sense they'll look for the closest relative, if they can't find anyone, the property devolves to the state. The state then probably sells it at auction. – Viktor Jan 2 '16 at 17:31
  • @Viktor - if you mean divorced in Episode VII, It's clear :) – DVK Jan 2 '16 at 17:38
  • No. If the captain is the sole owner, his wife would become the sole owner, absent any other legal documents. – Viktor Jan 2 '16 at 17:41
  • I'll give you an actual answer citing legal statue later in the day. BTW, I don't know a lot about ship registration, but I believe that in the United States ships have to be registered to a specific state. And carry the flag of that state within 3 miles of that state's shore. Then the ship switches to carrying a United States flag only. Is there a specific state you want this ship registered in? Could you link to the SFF.SE post? – Viktor Jan 2 '16 at 17:49
  • after doing further research, it is actually irrelevant which state a vessel is registered in and vessels can actually be federally registered (>5 tons, I assume the ship beats that). It appears that only the domicile of Solo matters (or place he called his home). For that I will assume the state in which the headquarters of Disney are located. That state is California. – Viktor Jan 2 '16 at 19:11
4

I've conducted this analysis as requested by the poster, under the laws of California.

The owner of the Millennium Falcon is Leia Organa if

  1. Han Solo left no will; and,
  2. We follow California's intestacy laws.

According to Nolo's summary of California's probate laws (and referencing the actual code available here when the summary was not appropriate), When a person has a spouse and children, the spouse inherits all of the community property and 1/2 or 1/3 of the separate property, while children inherit 1/2 or 2/3 of the separate property.

The Millennium Falcon is clearly separate property, as it was clearly in Solo's possession prior to the start of Episode IV, which means it was his before the marriage.

Since Han Solo has one known child on record, Leia would ordinarily get half of the separate property, which means she would only own half the Millennium Falcon. However, California has the slayer doctrine in its intestacy inheritance laws (Probate Code 250). This means if someone "feloniously and intentionally kills the decedent", the property "passes as if the killer had predeceased the decedent". This would normally mean the intestacy heir of the slayer, would get the property. However, Kylo Ren, has no children, which means his parents would inherit his property. This inheritance takes place before the death of Han Solo (an act of legal fiction), thus the estate of Han Solo is left with only a spouse. And since there are no parents of record for Han Solo, Leia Organa inherits everything.

Leia Organa is thus the owner of the Millennium Falcon.

  • Under what circumstances does the spouse inherit 1/2 property versus 1/3? And why did you pick 1/2 for your later discussion? I know it doesn't matter in the end since Leia gets it all, but I am trying to understand the process. – Thunderforge Jan 8 '16 at 0:47
  • @Thunderforge as I understand it, if you have 1 child it is 1/2 per spouse and child, otherwise if you have more than one child, spouse gets 1/3 and the rest is divided among the children. – Viktor Jan 8 '16 at 0:48
4

No, the first mate does not inherit

If the first mate is an employee then his employment contract is terminated by the death of the principal and he would be entitled to be paid his accrued wages and entitlements only. If the Falcon was Han's only asset, the estate would have to liquidate (sell) it to meet this obligation. In most jurisdictions there would be legal and administrative costs to be settled too.

Even if there was a legal partnership between the captain and the first mate that included ownership of the ship; the captain's share would pass through normal inheritance rules. The same would apply to shares in any holding company interposed between the captain/first mate and the ship. In either case Chewie would have a new partner.

Where the ship is registered is irrelevant; the law governing the inheritance would be that of where the estate is domiciled. For a person of no fixed address like Han this would probably be based on his citizenship; AFAIK Corillian.

If their laws are the same as NSW Australia see http://www.legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au/guides/wills_estates/inheritance.html. On this basis the ship passes to his spouse Leia Organa or spouses if Chewie is a de-facto spouse (there's a lot of down time in space travel).

  • Somewhat irrelevant, in-universe clearly Han's estate includes Leia's assets so presumably Falcon isn't the only asset. However, this is a second time on this question I heard about the contract being terminated by death of the owner. Is there a chance I can beg for a cite to that? It is something which i totally didn't expect. – DVK Jan 2 '16 at 23:49
  • Domicicle - if he's married but separated, how does that work? Does estranged wife's domicicle go into effect instead? Or diseased only? also, thanks! – DVK Jan 2 '16 at 23:50
  • Married is married - only a divorce ends a marriage. – Dale M Jan 7 '16 at 23:09
0

Lando Calrissian should sue for ownership. He was the owner before Han Solo, but lost it in a poker game. It has always been claimed that Han Solo cheated in that game. So the transfer was void.

But none of it matters, since the Millennium Falcon has so many illegal modifications(dual hyperdrives, hidden storage, customized weapon firing system, etc), once the courts saw it, it would be stripped or scrapped outright. Would be like who owns a WW1-era battleship? It is legal, but all the guns would be removed, the steam engines are out of code and would be removed, etc.

  • Sorry, I must correct the inaccuracy. It wasn't claimed that Solo cheated in the game (by Lando, at least). It was claimed that he cheated in the settlement contract for the winnings: more specifically, Lando specified the prize of "any ship on my lot" (he owned tons of ships as part of his business); and Han used that wording (like a good lawyer :) as a loophole, claiming Lando's personal ship Falcon - because at just that moment, Falcon was parked on Lando's business lot (since Lando took a luxury passenger liner to the Sabbac tournament "for classy image"). </neeeeeerd!> – DVK Jan 4 '16 at 14:59
  • Also, I'm less certain of that in canon (if you're curious, please visit scifi.stackexchange.com and ask), but I'm pretty sure 99% of Falcon's modifications were "street legal" - meaning, if he isn't carrying contraband, that ship is 100% not violating any ordinary rules or regulations. The only thing on the Falcon that was clearly illegal that I recall was a fake ship ID transponder. Sorry to nerd out on you :) – DVK Jan 4 '16 at 15:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.