Aaron Hernandez's family may benefit financially from the ex-NFL star's death. Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe

Whether he was aware of it or not, Aaron Hernandez may have greatly improved his family’s financial situation by committing suicide. In fact, now that the former NFL star is dead, it’s possible that both the league and the New England Patriots could owe the Hernandez family money.

In an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich Show” Wednesday morning, Massachusetts attorney Michael Coyne explained how Hernandez’s family may be entitled to recoup bonus and pension money. As another legal expert explained previously, Hernandez’s death triggered a legal principle in Massachusetts called “abatement ab initio,” which means that if a person dies before exhausting all legal appeals, the case reverts to its earliest state. That means Hernandez will likely have his conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd — in addition to the gun charge associated with it — overturned.

“If these convictions are ultimately vacated, will his child and his wife be able to recover either some of the bonus that’s still due to him under the Patriots contract or under any of his pension benefits that the NFL might owe him? It’s a very interesting question,” Coyne said. “If he’s no longer criminally liable, has he violated the provisions of any of his contractual terms? Where there’s money like this involved, the lawyers will have a field day.”

Hernandez has a 4-year-old daughter with his fiancee Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, who took the ex-tight end’s last name after he was convicted of murder.

Even after Hernandez’s death, it’s clear there are going to be a lot of legal matters to sort out. One theory (read it here) speculates Hernandez may have killed himself so his family can avoid having to pay civil damages, but Lloyd’s mother insists the Lloyd family will move forward with its lawsuit.

Coyne noted that even if Hernandez’s convictions are overturned, that does not necessarily mean the victim’s family can’t recover damages. He cited the example of the O.J. Simpson trial, in which Simpson was found not guilty of murdering two people but still lost a massive lawsuit in civil court.

The issue of whether or not the Patriots owe Hernandez millions in bonus money was brought up years ago, and the team’s stance on it seemed clear. Even if his team is contractually obligated to pay Hernandez, Robert Kraft would likely rather spend millions more in court to do everything he can to avoid giving money to a murderer or a murderer’s family.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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