Assisted Suicide and Inheritance

“Prosecution” Ruled a Key Factor in Waiving the Forfeiture Rules

The Forfeiture Rules are a set of rules laid down by Parliament stating that a person cannot benefit from an individual’s estate if they have unlawfully killed, or assisted, the individual’s death.  However, the court has the power to modify this rule by considering the person’s conduct and other relevant factors that come to light.

The recent case of Ninian v Findlay and others [2019] EWHC 297 (Ch) is a key case providing some clarity over the issue of inheritance and assisted suicide.

The court ruled that Mr Alex Ninian’s widow was allowed the right to inherit his £1.8 million estate, even though she assisted him to commit suicide.

Mr Ninian was terminally ill, who travelled to Switzerland to end his life.  His wife did not approve of the decision, but she assisted him by making the travel arrangements and accompanied him as he was too ill to travel alone.

The court ruled in Mrs Ninian’s favour, mainly due to two reasons:

  1. Mrs Ninian had at all times opposed her husband’s decision to go to Switzerland, so her acts could not be construed as encouragement; and
  2. The decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute Mrs Ninian was a powerful element in favour of ruling in Mrs Ninian’s favour.

The decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to not prosecute will be a leading factor for determining similar cases in the future.

For further information about making a Will, contact Melanie Christodoulou on 01227 763939.


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