Disentitling Conduct

June 27, 2013

“Disentitling conduct” is a concept that practitioners who act in family provision matters occasionally have to deal with. What it boils down to is that if someone has treated the testator badly to the point that they get left out of the will, then they only have themselves to blame.  The case of Troja v Troja (1994) 35 NSWLR 182 has undoubtedly set the high water mark.

In June 1990, Joanne Troja deliberately shot her husband and was convicted of manslaughter. She served 8 years in Malawa Correctional Centre. Unfortunately for Joanne, the common law forfeiture rule (that prevents someone from benefiting from their own criminal act) applied and she received nothing from her husband’s estate even though she was the sole beneficiary under his will.

Not to be deterred, in August 1991 she made an application under the Family Provision Act, claiming that she had been left with inadequate provision from her late husband’s estate for her proper maintenance, education and advancement in life.

The Public Trustee successfully sought:

(1) A declaration that [Joanne] has become disentitled to take any benefit under the will of the deceased aforesaid by virtue of her having feloniously killed the deceased on 2 July 1989; and

(2) A declaration that [Joanne’s mother] is entitled to take the whole of the estate of the deceased aforesaid as substitute beneficiary under the will.

Nice try – now back to the naughty corner!

Creative commons attribution for the photograph.


2 Responses to “Disentitling Conduct”

  1. I just caught up with this post from a few months back. I wonder if you have looked at the analysis of the Troja case in http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/SCULawRw/2004/6.html. Maybe the “naughty corner” comment was a bit off.

    • Paul Cutler Says:

      Michael – thanks for the comment. It certainly wasn’t apparent to me from the “estate case” that Ms Troja was a victim of violence at the hands of her husband. It certainly wasn’t my intention to make light of domestic violence.

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