forfeiture rule - an artilce from JWALS

The Forfeiture Rule in Estate Planning: A Fascinating Aspect of Legal Services

Estate planning often encompasses a range of relatively straightforward elements, such as Will writing and asset distribution. However, there are more complex aspects that can arise, one of which is the forfeiture rule. This rule, while not frequently discussed, plays a critical role in certain estate planning scenarios. Just Wills and Legal Services delves into this intriguing topic, shedding light on its legislation, application, and implications.

Understanding the Forfeiture Rule

The forfeiture rule is a principle in English law that prevents someone from inheriting from an estate if they have unlawfully killed or contributed to the death of the person from whom they stand to inherit. This rule is rooted in the principle that one should not benefit from their own wrongdoing. Prompted by a recent article about what we can learn about estate planning from the soaps, this article was written. In relatively recent Coronation Street storylines, Audrey’s son planned to kill her to benefit from an inheritance. Had he done it, been caught and prosecuted, the forfeiture rule would have applied.

Legislation Governing the Forfeiture Rule

The primary legislation governing the forfeiture rule in England and Wales is the Forfeiture Act 1982. This Act was introduced to provide a degree of flexibility to the previously rigid common law rule. It allows the courts to modify the effects of the forfeiture rule in certain circumstances, particularly where the application of the rule would be deemed unjust.

When Does the Forfeiture Rule Come into Effect?

The forfeiture rule is typically invoked in cases of murder or manslaughter. However, it can also apply in instances of assisted suicide or euthanasia, where the beneficiary has played a role in the death. The rule is automatically applied in cases of murder, but in cases of manslaughter, the courts have discretion to decide whether the rule should apply, based on the individual circumstances of the case.

Implications for Estate Planning

The application of the forfeiture rule can have significant implications for estate planning. If a beneficiary is disqualified under this rule, it can alter the distribution of the estate significantly. The estate may then be distributed as if the disqualified person had predeceased the deceased, potentially benefiting other beneficiaries or even resulting in the estate passing under the rules of intestacy if there are no other beneficiaries named in the Will.

The Role of Just Wills and Legal Services

At Just Wills and Legal Services, we understand the complexities and sensitivities surrounding the forfeiture rule. Our role is to provide comprehensive guidance on how this rule may impact estate planning and administration. We assist in drafting Wills that consider various contingencies, including the unlikely but possible application of the forfeiture rule.

A final word:

The forfeiture rule is a fascinating yet complex aspect of estate planning that underscores the importance of thorough and expert legal guidance. Just Wills and Legal Services is committed to providing our clients with the knowledge and support needed to navigate these intricate legal waters. Understanding and planning for all eventualities, however unlikely, is a crucial part of effective estate planning, ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, in compliance with the law.

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