NOTE FROM KATE: From time to time, I make/let my friend Christine, who is almost a lawyer, go on about vampires and the law. Season three of The Vampire Diaries starts tomorrow, so this seemed like a good time for a season two wrap-up. We'll have more of these posts for you this season if more legal questions arise. ONE CAN ONLY HOPE. You can follow Christine on Twitter at @twtrlessfriend.
It’s time for another installment of Christine Thinks Too Hard about Vampire Law! There’s so much to talk about, you guys. I’m saving PROPERTY LAW for last. Like dessert!
THING ONE: Those murderin’ monsters aren’t so homicidal, if you want to split hairs (and I do).
Did you know that common law defines homicide as the killing of a human being by another human being? It doesn’t define the killing of a human being by a VAMPIRE! Damon and Stefan are not homicidal maniacs! Hee. Maybe this is why Kate and I still find Ezra Fitz creepier than either of the Salvatores.
THING TWO: Child protective services needs to send a squad to Mystic Falls, STAT.
Someone needs to think about the children! Bonnie’s mother ran away and her father is possibly imaginary; Caroline’s father is elsewhere and her mother is an incompetent workaholic who’s never home; Matt has been abandoned and is about three unpaid bills away from being the little match boy; and Elena and Jeremy keep sleeping with monsters. These kids need a parent! They need a responsible adult! THEY NEED EMILY GILMORE.
Anyway, now that everyone is dead, Elena and Jeremy have no legal guardian and their estate has no trustee. There are two issues here: the kids need a guardian, and their property also needs a guardian. These can be the same person, but don’t have to be: Jenna was the legal guardian, and John was the estate’s trustee. Since "The Sun Also Rises," Jeremy and Elena are missing both.
Elena will be turning 18 in the Season 3 premiere, so she at least doesn’t need a legal guardian anymore. This doesn’t mean that she’s automatically Jeremy’s guardian, though. She’d need to go to court to get custody.
I have seen it suggested online that Alaric should get custody, but I can’t see this happening, even if Mystic Falls has judges as awful as their deputies. He’s not related to either of the Gilberts. What would he be? Step-birth-father? Almost-uncle? Obi-Wan? Even if Isobel had been a Elena’s legal parent (she wasn’t on the birth certificate), Alaric, as Isobel’s husband, would have no rights to Elena whatsoever, nor would he be responsible for her support except in exceptional circumstances. Alaric certainly has no claim to Jeremy. Dating someone’s aunt doesn’t put you in the guardianship pool.
Hopefully the estate property is less confusing, and the Gilbert parents listed alternate trustees. A bank would probably have been co-trustee with John anyway for everyday management purposes.
All that said, as much as I would love to see the Gilberts’ estate plan (ooooh, and Dead Mayor Lockwood’s!), I assume Jeremy and Elena will just get Damon to compel bank authorities when they need something. Naughty scamps.
THING THREE: Wait, so who owns all those houses now?
Do you ever wonder if - um, Lockwood? - County is full of a lot of very confused probate judges? (Come on, you know the Lockwoods named everything after themselves.) I mean, the town’s death rate is immense, but property never seems to change hands properly! Let’s get this straight:
- Elena died. She owned:
- half of the Gilbert house
- half of the lake house
- the boardinghouse
- Jeremy died. He owned:
- half of the Gilbert house
- half of the lake house
- Alaric dies all the time, but I don’t know what he owns. For all I know he leases his Suburban.
- The Salvatores are dead. Do they own anything? I mean, other than an enviable collection of hair products?
THING FOUR: Possession, Ownership, or Occupancy: How in the name of all things holy do invites WORK, or, Does Alaric have to invite Damon into his Suburban now?
For the most part, it has always seemed to me that rightful occupants of a property, whether owners or not, could invite vampires in. (See I Heart Property Law and Vampires Should Too, written after "Know Thy Enemy.") After all, Jenna could invite people into the Gilbert house, which she presumably didn’t own, and so could John. Caroline and Tyler could invite people into their parents’ houses, which they also presumably didn’t own. Matt invited Vicki into their house, and I assume the lease was in their mother’s name. Occupancy, not ownership, seemed to be the common thread.
But then in the last five episodes of the season, it was like Invites Gone Wild over in Mystic Falls, and it’s giving me a confusion headache. How did Klaus get into Alaric’s apartment? How could Alaric invite Damon into his apartment after he’d been kicked out? How did Katherine get into the boardinghouse to save Damon? How did Elijah and Stefan get into Alaric’s? Alaric’s apartment is like a black hole of invite logic! And as for Alaric- if you live in your car, do you have to invite the vampire in? Poor Ric must be living in his Suburban, what with Klaus taking over his bachelor pad. Will he have to invite Damon in next time they take a road trip?
Despite these issues (and I suppose they could just be continuity problems, but that destroys all my fun), I think my occupancy theory still works. In the finale, when Stefan got into Alaric’s and Katherine into the boardinghouse, those dwellings’ respective owners had stopped occupying them. Alaric was maybe living in his Suburban, and Elena went back to the Gilbert house. I know the producers said that Katherine got into the boardinghouse because Elena had died, but I like my theory better.
So if we just go with Damon being a continuity boo-boo, occupancy STILL WORKS. I AM THE BOMB.
Except- remember in "Let the Right One In" when Damon didn’t bother killing the lady who owned Pearl’s crash pad until he’d determined that she had no heirs? Wasn’t the point that if the lady died but she had an heir, that new owner would control the invites and Damon wouldn’t be able to get in to rescue Stefan and his abs? Wouldn’t that be the case here too? If Elena technically died, shouldn’t her ownership interest have passed to Jeremy? They weren’t both dead at the same time, and when Jeremy died Elena was alive again, so the house would have passed back to her. So how did Katherine get in? And if the boardinghouse is now open to all vamps, wouldn’t the Gilbert house be open too? SEE? HEADACHE.
Eagerly awaiting further vampire legal hijinks in season three,
PS- How does occupancy work with vacation homes? Perhaps it’s a “occupy in the manner of homes of that type,” sort of like how you don’t need to constantly occupy an isolated ski chalet to adversely possess it if it’s normally only occupied three months a year. Maybe it has to do with who’s exercising dominion over the property, so more of an adverse possession model? Though that wouldn’t explain Alaric’s, unless neither he nor the landlord are in possession, because Alaric moved out and the landlord has somehow not noticed the shenanigans going on in his apartment. But then how could Alaric invite Damon in, if it’s possession?
DARN YOU, SHOW.
PPS- I have always wanted to know what would happen if ownership to a property changed while a vampire was inside, and thanks to "Klaus," now we know: the vampire will no longer be able to breathe. Sorry, Elijah. (You’re still dreamy, though.)
PPPS- You know who would know the answer to my questions? Elijah. THANKS, KLAUS.