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Re K (deceased) [1985] Ch 85, ChD

Joint Tenancy – Severance – Manslaughter – Forfeiture

Facts

A husband and wife were in a marriage marred by domestic abuse.  The wife had suffered physical violence for a long period.  Upon being attacked by her husband she picked up a loaded shotgun and took off the safety catch intending to threaten him.  Unfortunately, she accidently shot and killed him.  She was tried for murder and being found guilty instead of manslaughter.  The husband had bequeathed her £1,000.  The husband’s estate wished to rely on the provisions of the Forfeiture Act 1982 to ensure that the joint tenancy was severed and the husband’s beneficial interest vest in his estate.

Issues

Whether the wife was prevented from benefitting from her husband’s will by the provisions of s2(2) Forfeiture Act 1982.  Whether forfeiture resulted in the automatic severing of their joint tenancy.

Held

The court held that the wife could be relieved from the strict provisions of the Forfeiture Act 1982 and that the Court had discretion to order relief where necessary.  Whilst a threat of violence was sufficient for forfeiture to occur, taking into account the wife’s financial position and the extreme hardship this order would cause, and taking into account the conduct of the parties themselves, it was right for the court to exercise its discretion under s2(2) Forfeiture Act 1982 and so to order relief from this.  Severance of a joint tenancy would occur in the event of a beneficiary unlawfully killing another beneficiary as had happened in this case, but the Court felt it right to exercise its discretion to modify the effect of the rule and ensure that the joint tenancy remained un-severed in this case.


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