Maybe it is time to have your Will reviewed?
A recent case going through the courts has brought this issue to the fore. Under common law where two people die at, or very near, the same time, and at least one of them is entitled to part or all of the other’s estate on their death, usually the result of an un-natural death occurring from events such as an accident, a homicide, or a murder-suicide,, the elder of the two is deemed to have died first.
So, in the case of simultaneous death, where you have a Will that leaves everything to your spouse or civil partner the Will of the younger partner will prevail, which may not be what you would have wanted. Such a situation could mean your children could be disinherited and that for sure would definitely not be what you would want.
A Will should be reviewed regularly anyway, so if this case has you worried, let’s talk through your circumstances and find out what you can do.
In the case currently going through court, the children of an elderly couple found dead at home together are locked in an unusual £300,000 inheritance battle as they ask a judge to decide which parent died first.
John Scarle, 79, and his wife Ann, 69, who each had children from previous marriages, were found dead from hypothermia in their bungalow after police were called by worried neighbours in October 2016.
Under a little used 100-year-old law, the family of whoever dies last stand to inherit the home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
Mrs Cutler’s barrister James Weale said the deaths happened between October 3 or 4 and October 11, 2016, telling the High Court: “The most that one can do is speculate as to what might have happened. None of the experts were able to express any view as to even the approximate date, let alone time of the death of either of John or Ann.”
John Scarle’s daughter, Anna Winter, insists her stepmother, who suffered a stroke and had mobility issues, probably died first, which would mean her father briefly inherited his wife’s share and passed it to Mrs Winter.
But Deborah Cutler, daughter of Ann Scarle, claims the order of deaths cannot be determined and the ‘legal presumption’ is her stepfather, the elder of the couple, died first — meaning she and her brother, Andre Farley, get the house.
Acting for Mrs Winter, barrister Amrik Wahiwala said the evidence showed ‘on the balance of probabilities’, it was Mrs Scarle who died first. But James Weale, acting for Mrs Cutler, said no expert has been able to give an date or time of death for the couple ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
Judge Phillip Kramer has reserved his ruling until a later date.
Is it time to have your Will reviewed?
A Will should be reviewed regularly anyway, so if this case has you worried, let’s talk through your circumstances and find out what you can do. You can contact me here