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Can I inherit from someone if I murdered them?
01 July 2019  | André Styger

In terms of South African law the following persons are disqualified from benefitting under a will if a person is unworthy, for example where a person has unlawfully caused the death of the testator. This is in accordance with the principle that “de bloedige hand neemt geen erft”, and clearly the person who murders another cannot take a benefit from the will of his victim.


In Makhanya v Minister of Finance the court used this de bloedige hand rule to extend the rule to cover any proceeds from the deceased’s pension fund from benefiting the person who caused the deceased’s death.


In the case of Danielz NO v De Wet and others the facts were that De Wet was the sole nominated beneficiary under four life insurance policies on the life of her late husband. In 2000, she hired and paid two men to assault her husband. Unfortunately, they killed him.

In 2006, after the she had been convicted on the criminal charges against her, she claimed under the life insurance policies from the insurer. The applicant, who was the nominee of the insurer (Old Mutual), applied for a declaratory order that De Wet was not entitled to the proceeds of the life insurance policies.

The court agreed and the application for a declaratory order to bar De Wet from claiming the proceeds of the policy was therefore successful.


In recent cases in South Africa this principle has been confirmed, eg:  Henri van Breda and the Griekwastad murder cases. 

Tags: Testament