Forfeiture and the Effect of Section 33A of the Wills Act 1837
 Conveyancer and Property Lawyer
14 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2020 Last revised: 23 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 18, 2020
The forfeiture rule is “the rule of public policy which in certain circumstances precludes a person who has unlawfully killed another from acquiring a benefit in consequence of the killing”. Section 33A of the Wills Act 1837 (applicable to deaths on or after 1 February 2012) provides that “where a will contains a devise or bequest to a person who” “has been precluded by the forfeiture rule from acquiring it”, “[t]he person is, unless a contrary intention appears by the will, to be treated for the purposes of this Act as having died immediately before the testator”. On one view, any will is now simply read as if the forfeiting beneficiary has predeceased the testator. As this paper will explain, however, the phrase “for the purposes of this Act” has created unintended complications in the minds of some, with the potential considerably to reduce the impact of section 33A in an undesirable manner. The paper considers whether the problem with the scope of section 33A identified by some scholars is truly present, alongside what the solution to it might be.
Keywords: homicide, succession, inheritance, law reform, property, statutory construction
JEL Classification: K11, K36, K38, K19, K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation