Posted: 19th August 2019
A tragic case has just been reported where a married couple, Mr and Mrs Scarle, who each had a daughter from previous relationships, sadly died of hypothermia in 2016 and were both found in their house a week later; neither of them had made Wills since their marriage.
Mr Scarle was 79 and his wife, Mrs Scarle, 69: it was not clear which of them had died first. In the legal world, where the order of death is uncertain, the older partner is assumed to have died first. The presumption was therefore that Mr Scarle died first being 10 years older, and, under the legal rules, his assets would pass to his Wife and as she had also died, on to Mrs Scarle’s daughter. Mr Scarle’s daughter would receive nothing.
All or Nothing
Mr Scarle’s daughter is challenging the position saying that it was much more likely that Mrs Scarle died first due to her medical condition (she had suffered a stroke in 1998) and was generally in poor health. If she can produce clear evidence that Mrs Scarle died first then it is Mr Scarle’s daughter who would inherit the entire estate. The decision on the case is to be given at a later date.
This is a sad and rare case but it does highlight the need for professional advice where there are complex family structures if you wish to avoid disputes in the future. A solicitor specialising in Wills would have addressed the issue of how to ensure each of their children could have inherited when they had both passed away which would usually be the intended outcome.