The forfeiture rule is a fundamental principle of justice that prevents a person from benefiting from their wrongful conduct, as it would be unconscionable to allow a killer to take a financial benefit from their unjust action.
Courts permit no dilution of the rule therefore being convicted of murder or manslaughter regardless of the facts of the case means that no benefit can be obtained. In New South Wales legislation amended the rule enabling the Court to take account of the variety of circumstances in which a homicide may occur.
Michel Wendy Carroll was killed by her “de facto” husband Steven Leslie Hill in an episode of domestic violence. He was found not guilty by reason of mental illness and was ordered to be detained in the psychiatric ward of a prison hospital.
Michel Carroll died leaving two children: the older son, by a previous marriage; the younger son by Steven Hill.
Michel Carroll died intestate, therefore under NSW Intestacy law Hill would be entitled to the deceased’s personal effects, a prescribed legacy, and one half of the remainder (if any) of the deceased’s intestate estate.
Carroll’s children asked the Court to rule that the forfeiture rule apply with respect to Hill as if he had been found guilty of the murder of the Carroll.
The Court found that justice requires that in respect to the forfeiture rule Hill be treated as if he had been found guilty of murder precluding him from benefitting from Carroll’s estate. Hill didn’t oppose this ruling.
Carroll’s children sought to be granted administration of the deceased estate. The Court ruled that Hill was not entitled to any interest in Carroll’s estate or its administration, and that the estate should be distributed as if the deceased died leaving two children, and no spouse.
Therefore Carroll’s sons were entitled to the estate as remains after payment of all funeral and administration expenses, debts and other liabilities, and the Court granted administration of the estate to Carroll’s brother and sister-in-law.