Voluntary Assisted Dying

Could the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act affect my inheritance?

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (Qld) (‘VAD Act’) provides strict criteria for accessing voluntary assisted dying (‘VAD’), and has raised complex legal, ethical, and moral questions regarding end-of-life decisions. The new laws make a particular distinction that VAD is not assisted suicide where the required procedures and requirements have been followed, and the person has made the decision freely and voluntarily. But why is this distinction so important?

The rule of forfeiture provides that a person who unlawfully kills another cannot benefit from their victim’s death. Whilst this rule has certainly been applied in cases of murder, manslaughter and more recently in assisted suicide, the implications of the rule in cases of VAD are yet to be seen in Queensland.

Although suicide is not a crime in Australia, aiding or inducing another person to end their life is a criminal offence. Similarly, it is not a crime to access VAD, but it is a criminal offence to dishonestly assist or coerce a person into accessing VAD or self-administering a VAD substance.

This means that those assisting a person seeking VAD in good faith will be protected from liability arising from that person’s death, and becomes especially relevant where a person is assisting a spouse or parent with health decisions and end-of-life care relating to VAD. In the unlikely event that their assistance is provided with malice, then in theory, that child or spouse could certainly be prohibited from inheriting under their parent or spouse’s estate.

Interestingly, the forfeiture rule does not require a criminal conviction for murder or manslaughter, and the Court in their ultimate discretion may judge that a person was responsible for another’s death on the balance of probabilities. This means that if the Court could be satisfied that it is more likely than not (say, a 51% chance or greater) that they assisted or coerced that person in bad faith, the rule could apply to deaths under the VAD Act in the absence of a ‘guilty’ verdict.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the intention and independence of a person seeking VAD is paramount, and so if you have concerns about a friend or family member, we encourage you to seek legal advice.

Madeline Crnkovic, Law Student and Paralegal at Zande Law Solicitors, Suite 9, Norwinn Centre, 15 Discovery Drive, North Lakes, is the author of this article, training in the area of Wills and Estates.

The information in this article is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law.  This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information.  When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.