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Forfeiting an Inheritance

Forfeiting an Inheritance

Forfeiting an Inheritance

The high profile case of Sally Challen has been in the news again this week.  Sally was convicted of murdering her husband in 2011 and served 8 years in prison before her conviction was overturned.  The consequence of being convicted of murdering her husband meant that she could not inherit his estate including the jointly owned family home due to the forfeiture rule which, as a rule of public policy, says that a wrong doer should not benefit from their crime.

Sally subsequently appealed her conviction and was successful in that she was found guilty of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility on the basis of the coercive and controlling behaviour of her husband Richard.

Following her release her legal team made an application to the Court for relief against the forfeiture rule.  The Forfeiture Act 1982 was enacted with purpose of giving the Court an inherent jurisdiction to apply discretion in waiving the forfeiture rule depending on the facts in the case.

If Mrs Challen did not inherit her husband’s estate there would have been inheritance tax to pay which would have disadvantaged Sally and Richard’s two children – who supported their mother’s claim for relief. Judge Matthews sitting in the High Court said that the justice of the case was a key criteria and he allowed the claim for relief.

Not every claim for relief is successful but will depend on the facts.

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