The Forfeiture Rule

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In the event the testators death has been caused by the criminal conduct of another person who is entitle to receive a benefit under their Will, it is well established that their conduct may be such as to preclude them from receiving the gift. This is known as the ‘forfeiture rule’.


The person who has committed such an act is also excluded from benefiting from assets which do not necessarily form part of the estate such joint tenancy property (right of survivorship), superannuation proceeds and even life insurance.


In Queensland, there is no specific legislation dealing with the ‘forfeiture rule’, however, the principles are set out in the common law (case law).


A good example of the ‘forfeiture rule’ applying is the Baden-Clay case. The common law forfeiture rule applied to the husband and would have applied even if his murder conviction was downgraded to manslaughter. There was also argument that the motive behind Allison’s murder was the financial benefit that the husband, Baden-Clay, would receive from her estate. This was ultimately rejected by the Court and would, in any case, be deemed irrelevant by the Court under the forfeiture rule where the exclusion applies. As a consequence in that case, the wife’s (Allison) father was responsible to administer the estate, and the daughters will receive the some $1 million estate in in entirely upon attaining the age of majority.

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