You are the chief beneficiary of a will. Trouble is, you killed
the person who wrote the will. Can you still get the money?
You'd think not. Certainly the law says you shouldn't.
The forfeiture rule states an offender cannot benefit from their
crime. Therefore the victim's estate should be distributed as
if the killer had never existed.
But Joshua Crowther, a specialist in wills at Stacks/The Law
Firm, says all is not so clear. Section 6 of the Forfeiture Act
allows a court to modify the effect of this rule if the court finds
the killer did not have the mental capacity to have killed with
For example, in 1998 there was a landmark case in which a woman
with a mental illness killed her grandmother. She pleaded guilty to
manslaughter, and the court found her mental illness at the time
diminished her mental responsibility for the crime. When it came to
the grandmother's will, the court ruled the killer was entitled
to be a beneficiary as she had no intention to profit from the
crime. The court noted the benefit the granddaughter would obtain
from the crime would at most be a very short acceleration of her
entitlement under the elderly grandmother's will.
In another case a court considered how much of an estate had
been accumulated by the killer in making a decision as to whether
the forfeiture rule should be modified in favour of the killer.
This doesn't mean you need to add the provision "unless
he/she kills me" when you name a beneficiary in your will. But
as Joshua Crowther says, there are many quirks in the laws
governing wills and estates, and it's best to have experienced
legal advice when you draw up a will. It's important to be very
precise so that you can be sure your inheritance goes to those you
want it to go to.
The law can open the door for "eligible" people who
miss out to challenge a will including spouse, de facto, biological
or adopted children, step-children, a former spouse, a dependent of
the deceased, a grandchild, a person who was part of the
deceased's household, and someone who was in a "close
What if you have an accident and receive large compensation but
you lack the capacity to write a will? Intestacy laws apply,
meaning it will first go to the spouse, then children, parents and
siblings. But what if the accident victim hates them? Relatives can
apply for a court-made will to override intestacy lines, but
evidence will have to be provided to exclude them.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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If you are doing a Will, or you are the executor of a deceased estate, consider what taxes and duties could be payable.
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