Monday, 1 February 2016

Crime doesn't pay warning

A Midlands solicitor has warned that crime certainly doesn’t pay – particularly when it comes to inheritance issues.

Andrew Oranjuik, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a ruling from the High Court in the last few weeks had set out a stark warning for anyone who stood to be a beneficiary from someone’s will.

“The law says that anyone who stands to benefit from a will can lose their inheritance if they are involved in causing the death of the person that made the will – this may sound obvious, but it’s an area of law that’s not often tested.

“And now, the High Court has re-affirmed the point, after considering the case of a woman who died and left her entire £150,000 estate to her son in her will.

“The son, who was in his early 60s when his mother died, had lived with her for his entire life as he had poor life skills and his mother had done everything for him. He assaulted his mother at their home and she died from her injuries three weeks later, with the son then convicted of her manslaughter and sentenced to be detained in hospital.”

Andrew said in a murder case, the “forfeiture rule” had existed for many years where any beneficiary who causes someone’s death is prevented from inheriting anything in the will.

“But this was a manslaughter case, and so the court had the power to choose whether they should apply the forfeiture rule or not. They decided to refuse the son’s claim mainly because the assault leading to the mother’s death was serious and aggravated.

“And although the son had recognised mental health difficulties, they ruled that he had the capacity to know what he was doing and to understand the difference between right and wrong. So the court has given a clear message that crime doesn’t pay, and just because you’re named as a beneficiary in a will, your own actions could ultimately lead to you missing out if you break the law.”