A matter of timing?
Saying “Goodbye” is never easy and saying that final “Goodbye” when a loved one passes on is often a traumatic and distressing experience for those left behind. Whether an expected or unexpected death, nothing quite prepares one for that final moment and the loss it leaves behind.
In our experience as legal advisors, this already-difficult time can be made worse if the person who has died has not made a Will. This can have even worse consequences if a married couple dies at the same time leaving no Wills with biological children from their previous relationships.
You may recall the case of John and Ann Scarle which was published last year. They were aged 79 and 69 respectively and they died from hypothermia in their own home. They each had a daughter from a previous relationship. The issue of who would inherit hinged on which of the spouses died first.
As they owned their house as joint tenants, the surviving spouse would inherit the deceased’s share and both shares would then pass to the surviving spouse’s daughter.
The evidence in this case was such that they could not determine which of the Scarles died first. On this basis the court applied the ‘Commorientes Rule’ in Section 184 of the Law of Property Act 1925, which means that if it cannot be determined who has died first then the younger person should be presumed to have outlived the elder.
Mrs Scarle was the younger spouse so her daughter inherited the house leaving her step sister with no inheritance and an expensive bill!
While this is an extreme case, even if there is no issue about who has died first, you cannot guarantee what happens to your assets, unless you make a Will setting out the details.
A recent survey suggests that over half (60%) of UK adults don’t have a Will and more than 31 million people now run the risk of dying intestate and having their estate distributed solely according to intestacy law
In many cases the fact there is no Will tends not to be discovered until it is too late! Similar issues arise with Wills that are out of date, potentially leading to family fall-outs that rarely repair.
None of us like to think about the time when it will be necessary for us to say our final “Goodbye” but it is kinder for those left behind to make sure everything is in order. To make your Will in good time, or to review your existing Will, contact Melissa Reeds on 01983 527878 or [email protected]