A story of warring step-siblings has recently gained much attention and serves as a valuable lesson in the importance of making a Will. Trowbridge Wills specialist Jenny Greenland considers the recent judgment in this case.
In Part 1 of this blog I wrote about John and Ann Sarle who were found dead in their home in October 2016. Medical experts were unable to determine which of them died first. The order of the deaths would have a significant effect of the distribution of their estate.
Neither of the couple had Wills and they owned their bungalow as joint tenants. Statutory rules therefore come in to effect when determining how the estate should be distributed. On the first death, the survivor would inherit the entire estate. On the second death, the estate would then pass in its entirety to the family of the second to die. John and Ann each had one daughter. Due to the statutory rules one of their daughters would receive the entire estate, whilst the other would inherit nothing.
The daughters asked the court to determine who died first and, therefore who would receive the estate.
We now have judgment. The judge was unable to infer who died first from any of the evidence available to him and so followed the Commorientes Rule which is found in the Law of Property Act 1925. This rule states that where two people die and is it impossible to determine who died first, the younger is deemed to have survived the elder. John was ten years older than his wife and so Ann’s daughter is set to receive the entire estate.
This sad story is a reminder of how important it is to have a Will in place to ensure the fair distribution of your estate following your death.