Audiences all over the world have been captivated by the American television series The Act, depicting the unorthodox relationship between Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy Rose, ultimately resulting in the murder of the former. When the next-of-kin is responsible for the murder of their parent, can they benefit from the estate?
Years of abuse lead to murder
At face value, Dee Dee Blanchard seemed like a model parent. Lauded as being incredibly devoted and selfless by people within their Springfield community and the wider United States, Dee Dee had been raising her sick daughter Gypsy Rose as a solo mother. Behind closed doors, however, a sinister scheme has been taking place – for years, Dee Dee had allegedly forced her daughter into pretending she was severely ill for financial benefits and popularity.
These lies had resulted in the pair having free trips to Disneyland, a house purpose built for them by Habitat for Humanity and countless donations. However, the ruse impacted Gypsy Rose the most. Confined to a wheelchair, Gypsy Rose was force fed through a feeding tube and made to believe that she suffered from muscular dystrophy, asthma and sleep apnea among other conditions.
As Gypsy Rose grew older, she recognised that she wasn’t as sick as she was made to believe, and through her investigation, found that Dee Dee had been lying about her age, too. Desperate for an escape, in June 2015 Gypsy Rose plotted and committed the murder of her mother with her then boyfriend Nick Godejohn. Ultimately, Gypsy Rose was sentenced to 10 years for second-degree murder while Godejohn serves a life sentence.
This case has been polarising as it is undeniable that Gypsy Rose endured years of abuse at the hands of her mother, however, the murder was premeditated and cannot be minimised. In Wisconsin, where the murder was committed, killing someone from which you are a beneficiary revokes any claim the murderer has to the victim’s estate. Similarly, for Australians who murder their parents, common law states that they cannot benefit from their crime.
Can a murderer benefit from the estate of their victim?
In Australia, there is legislation in place to stop a murderer benefiting from the estate of their victim if provisions have been made for them in the Will, known as forfeiture. However, if the murderer was proven to have killed as the result of a mental illness, they may still be able to make a claim to the estate.
If mental illness is determined, under section 11 of the Forfeiture Act 1995 (NSW), interested persons in a Will can apply to have the forfeiture rule applied to the murderer so that they can’t claim from the estate. In order to make a ruling around forfeiture, the Court will need to consider both the conduct of the offender and the nature of their relationship with the deceased in order to make a decision.
If you are looking at contesting a Will under forfeiture, it’s imperative to get in touch with the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Disputes Lawyers to support your claim.