The Forfeiture Rule

Unfairly left out of a will?
If you believe that you have been unfairly treated or left out of a Will, we can help

The Forfeiture Rule and Contested Wills (NSW)

While receiving financial security through an inheritance after a loved one’s passing can ease the burden of grief, disputes can arise when someone challenges the terms of the will. In New South Wales, the concept of the forfeiture rule adds another layer of complexity to contested wills. Our contesting a will solicitors at Szabo & Associates can ensure you understand the forfeiture rule, its implications for contesting wills in NSW, and how to navigate these situations effectively.

What is the Forfeiture Rule?

The forfeiture rule is a common law principle governed by the Forfeiture Act 1995 that prevents a person who unlawfully causes the death of another from benefitting financially or otherwise from their wrongdoing. In simpler terms, it means that if a person is found to have intentionally killed or unlawfully caused the death of someone else, they will be barred from inheriting or otherwise receiving any benefits from the testator’s estate.

How the Forfeiture Rule Applies in NSW

Contested wills often involve disputes among family members or beneficiaries regarding the validity or fairness of the will’s provisions. In cases where the deceased’s death was the result of foul play, the forfeiture rule comes into play to prevent the wrongdoer or an individual close to them from profiting from their actions.

For example, suppose a person is named as a beneficiary in the will of their deceased spouse, but it is later discovered that they were responsible for their spouse’s death. In that case, the forfeiture rule would prevent the surviving spouse from inheriting any assets or benefits under the will.

Exceptions to the Forfeiture Rule

While the forfeiture rule is a general principle aimed at preventing unjust enrichment by wrongdoers, there are some exceptions and nuances to consider:

  • Innocent intentions: If the testator’s death was accidental or unintentional, the forfeiture rule may not apply.
  • Public policy considerations: In some cases, the court may determine that enforcing the forfeiture rule would lead to unjust or disproportionate outcomes and may choose to make exceptions accordingly.
  • Survival of rights: The forfeiture rule does not extinguish the rights of other beneficiaries or claimants to the testator’s estate.

Challenges in Applying the Forfeiture Rule

While the forfeiture rule serves an important purpose in preventing wrongdoing from being rewarded, its application in contested wills can present challenges:

  • Complex legal proceedings: Determining whether the forfeiture rule applies in a contested will case often requires extensive legal analysis and evidence gathering to establish the circumstances surrounding the deceased’s death and the wrongdoer’s intentions.
  • Familial dynamics: Contested wills involving allegations of wrongdoing can exacerbate tensions and conflicts among family members. Emotions run high, and navigating these sensitive issues requires a delicate balance of legal expertise and sympathy.
  • Burden of proof: Proving that a person unlawfully caused another’s death, especially in cases where criminal charges have not been filed or convictions obtained, can be challenging. The burden of proof rests on the party alleging wrongdoing, and gathering sufficient evidence to meet this burden can be a formidable task.

Seeking Legal Guidance in Contested Wills Cases

Contested wills involving allegations of wrongdoing and the application of the forfeiture rule require skilled legal representation to navigate successfully. If you find yourself involved in a contested will case or have concerns about the validity of a will due to suspicions of foul play, contact our NSW contesting a will solicitors today at 02 9281 5088. We can provide you with the guidance and advocacy you need to navigate the legal process effectively.

Why choose Szabo Solicitors

30 years' experience

George Szabo and our Team of Solicitors have more than 30 years of experience with contesting wills in Sydney, NSW and across other States in Australia too. 


High success rate

Years of experience and dedication ensure our high success rate in contesting wills cases.

Personal service

Our personalised approach ensures exceptional service tailored to your unique needs and circumstances.

Call our Contesting a Will Solicitors

Individual problems require individual solutions

Speak to an expert solicitor today for advice focused on you

Read our reviews

What our clients say:

Our Team

George Szabo

Principal Solicitor

Peter Sarlas

Associate Solicitor

Sara Campo


Contact Szabo Solicitors

Suite 302 Level 3
55 Holt Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010

PO Box 282 Surry Hills

Phone 02 9281 5088
Fax 02 9281 5988

Our Wills & Estate Disputes Solicitors serve clients in communities throughout Sydney and NSW, including the Eastern Suburbs, Lower North Shore, Upper North Shore, Northern Beaches, Sutherland Shire and beyond.

Copyright © 2024 Szabo & Associates Solicitors. All Rights Reserved. Web Design & SEO by MLT | Terms of Use | Cookies & Privacy Policy | Sitemap

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.