There is a general presumption in law that when the order in which people died is not known, they will be regarded as having died in the same order in which they were born, so the eldest is deemed to have died first and the youngest last.
This is seldom a problem, but there are times when determining the exact time of death does become very important. A recent case considered by one of our expert legal advisors, Stuart Maher, involved a legal dispute between two stepsisters, the outcome of which depended on exactly that point. At stake in the case was who was to inherit an estate of some £300,000.
The circumstances that gave rise to the case were that a couple who each had children of their own had failed to make wills, as is sadly often the case. They both died from hypothermia in their house in 2016 and it is not known which of them died first.
The man’s daughter argued that the post-mortem evidence indicated that her stepmother died first. His wife’s daughter disputed that and requested that the court rule that her stepfather (the elder of the couple) died first. The result was a court hearing for a binding legal decision, and with the evidence in respect of the time of death being uncertain, the judge confirmed that the elder parent was deemed to have died first.
Stuart commented to say, “Disputes between the children of those who have remarried are very common. However, they are also usually easily avoidable if appropriate legal advice is taken in good time. Such a dispute like this, with legal costs running in excess of £40,000 for each of the parties, can be avoided by making Wills appropriate to your circumstances, whatever they may be”
To arrange an initial consultation and receive a Wills & estate planning report from Stuart, please call 01254 88 44 22, or alternatively complete our Contact Us form and one of our expert advisors will be in touch.