IMPORTANT UPDATE: COVID-19

The “forfeiture rule” under The Forfeiture Act 1982 prohibits a person from benefiting from the estate of the person he/she unlawfully killed, however the Court has a discretion to waive forfeiture in certain cases.

In the recent case of Amos v Manchini & Others [2020], the Court was asked to exercise this discretion in the somewhat tragic circumstances of the case. Mr and Mrs Amos had been travelling from their home in Wales to Canterbury when their vehicle drove into the back of a queue of stationary vehicles. Mrs Amos, who was 74 years old at the time, was driving. Mr Amos, who was 81 years old, suffered severe injuries in the accident and died on the same day. Mrs Amos was charged with causing his death by careless driving. She was given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty.

Mrs Amos was the main beneficiary of her husband’s Will and also the joint owner of their home which would pass to her by survivorship unless the forfeiture rule applied.

Mrs Amos’s step daughter, the deceased’s child from an earlier marriage, challenged her inheritance but the Judge having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including Mrs Amos’s previously clean driving record and the fact that the death was accidental and not deliberate or intentional, found that whilst the offence does amount to unlawful killing for the purposes of the 1982 Act, depriving Mrs Amos of her inheritance would be “significantly out of proportion to her fault” . Hence, the forfeiture rule was waived by the court thereby allowing Mrs Amos to inherit under the Will and also to acquire the family home.

This is an important decision which shows that the Court will take into account all the circumstances of the case including culpability of the person when deciding whether the forfeiture rule applies in cases of unlawful killing.

For further information and advice on any inheritance dispute or contentious probate matter, please contact Nazia Nawaz on 01484 558058 or by email nazia.nawaz@ramsdens.co.uk