An Update: Simultaneous Deaths – Who Inherits?

Our earlier article ‘Simultaneous Deaths – Who Inherits?’ explored the case of stepsisters disputing who should inherit the combined estates of their respective parents and the Commorientes Rule.

The Commorientes Rule is not often applied in modern day cases, as advances in science and forensics have made it almost always possible to ascertain the time or order of deaths in such cases where multiple deaths occur. However, despite the evidence put forward by each of the stepsisters, it remained unclear which of the parents had died first. Therefore, they asked the Court to decide.

Due to this uncertainty, Judge Philip Karmer relied upon the Commorientes Rule in making his decision in the High Court on 13th August 2019. The application of this rule means that the deaths were determined to be in order of age. This means that the older of the parents (John Scarle) was presumed to have died first, leaving his estate to his wife (Ann Scarle), who on her death then left it to her daughter, Deborah Cutler. John Scarle’s daughter, Anna Winter, therefore will receive nothing from the estate.

As a result, Judge Philip Karmer ruled in favour of Deborah Cutler who will inherit the full £300,000 estate of both parents.

Reportedly, Ms Cutler had offered to settle the case by dividing the assets equally, and then later 60/40 in her stepsister’s favour, but Ms Winter indicated she would only settle out of court for 100% of the estates. Surely, she is regretting that decision now!

Our Disputes team has extensive experience of contentious inheritance. For advice or information, please contact Hannah Johnson on 01234 270600.

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