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Legal aspects of assisted dying

View profile for Claire Read
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Assisted dying is a contentious issue ethically. However, it can also provide problems from a legal point of view. 

Most will be aware of the possible criminal implications that can arise, but there are also issues regarding who inherits the estate because of the Forfeiture Act 1982. This Act prevents a person who has unlawfully killed another, or unlawfully helped another person to die, from obtaining a benefit as a result of the killing or death. Although, this rule can be waived at the court's discretion.

In the recent high profile case of Ninian v Findlay, Mrs Ninian asked that the High Court waive this rule so that she could inherit her husband’s estate, even though she accompanied him to Dignitas. The court agreed to waive the rule so Mrs Ninian could inherit her husband’s estate, but they did so partly because of the careful planning steps that Mr Ninian and his solicitors had undertaken. This case has highlighted the importance of not only focusing on the medical issues, but also on the legal aspects so that you can protect your loved ones, and ensure that your assets pass to the beneficiaries of your choosing.

We have a team of wills, trusts and probate specialists that provides advice and guidance through difficult times. If you would like to discuss your circumstances, or a deceased’s will, please do not hesitate to contact us. I am based in our Chelmsford office and can be contacted on 01245 453835 or claire.read@birkettlong.co.uk.

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