Considering the serious nature of many WTC-related illnesses as well as the length of time that has passed since the September 11 attacks, it is an unfortunate reality that many victims have passed away and that many more are likely to pass before receiving compensation. However, a victim’s family may still be eligible to follow through with the application submitted to the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). VCF claims survive the claimants and may transfer to their children and loved ones.
Under the current guidelines, the distribution of VCF proceeds is regulated by the estate laws of the state in which the claimant was a permanent resident at the time of death. Most states treat the surviving legal claims of a deceased person differently than they treat the proceeds of a wrongful death lawsuit. The guidelines that direct VCF funds should be considered as follows:
- The $250,000 non-economic loss payment available to deceased claimants should be distributed under the terms of the claimant’s will, subject to state probate laws. If the deceased had no will, it should be distributed under the intestacy statute of the appropriate state.
- If an additional $100,000 in non-economic loss payments was made for a spouse or qualifying dependent, those payments should go directly to that spouse or dependent.
- Payments reflecting economic losses should be treated under the relevant wrongful death statute. These vary from state to state but often mirror the state’s intestacy law.
Distribution of funds that are owed to a deceased VCF claimant can be complicated and requires final approval and oversight by the Office of the Special Master. If you are embarking on this process as the personal representative of a deceased 9/11 victim, seek counsel from experienced VCF attorneys at Barasch & McGarry, as well as from a probate practitioner in the appropriate state.