The Forfeiture Rule

by Jacqui Brauman

This is a bit of trivia, because the situation is actually quite rare.

you get nothingThe forfeiture rule – is a rule that if someone commits murder or manslaughter then the offender cannot benefit under the Will of the deceased! Makes sense, because we might all start knocking each other off to get our inheritance early!?!

The rule also goes one step further – it applies as if the offender never existed, so it also wipes out the offender’s children and any further descendants. So if the offender’s unwitting children were left a legacy in the Will, their parent would have disinherited them.

The rule also applies to intestacies (where the deceased had no Will) and to joint tenancies. Usually with a joint tenancy, the survivor inherits the whole of the property. But the forfeiture rule operates so that the principle of survivorship doesn’t apply, and the half share of the deceased will be deemed to be held on a constructive trust for their estate.

Interestingly, the forfeiture rule can apply even if the offender is not convicted of an offence. Also, the civil standard of proof applies for the application of the forfeiture rule – so not “beyond reasonable doubt”, but the “balance of probabilities”.

So again – it’s an interesting bit of trivia but probably mostly useless.

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