A case regarding a disputed succession has featured in the media recently, with the point at issue being whether the husband or the wife died first. Sadly, the couple were found dead in their home and is not known with certainty when they died or which of them died first.
In these circumstances, the Law of Property Act 1925 provides that where the order of deaths cannot be determined, the elder is treated as dying before the younger.
This relatively obscure provision can have a considerable impact on how assets devolve following someone’s death. This can become even more of an issue where, for example, a couple have children from different relationships or would like different people to benefit following their respective deaths. In these scenarios, the order of death will determine which side of the family or group of beneficiaries actually benefits and could mean another side is excluded from any benefit.
It is not always easy for people to consider how best to deal with their affairs especially when there are children from previous relationships or indeed other complicating factors. However, as the current case highlights, if a will has not been put in place then the situation can actually be far worse and lead to a situation that neither person would have wanted.
A properly drawn up will can balance out the needs of different family members and help to avoid costly and upsetting disputes after death. If you would like to discuss the issues raised here, please contact Patrick Green on +44 (0)20 7354 3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.