Another reason why having a will is so important

Most people would not give a second thought to almost 100 year old laws, but a recent high court case highlights why anyone can be affected and families can be torn apart, by them.

The case of step-sisters, Anna Winter and Deborah Cutler battling over their parents’ £300,000 property has lead to the legal presumption in s184 Law of Property Act 1925, known as the ‘commorientes rule’, being used to try and settle the case, resulting in two potential opposing outcomes.

Section 184 Law Property Act 1925 sets states where the order of deaths of two of more persons, usually in the same event but not necessarily, is uncertain or cannot be determined, the younger of the two is deemed to have survived the elder. This will then dictate the devolution of the assets and property in an estate. This can then result in unintended consequences, particularly for families where a couple and/or parents are not married or there are children from previous relationships.

The recent case arose following the deaths of the step-sisters parents at their home in circumstances where it cannot be conclusively proven who died first. Dependant on the court ruling, the £300,000 property, which passes by survivorship between the parents, will either pass wholly into the estate of one parent or the other. Without a Will to direct that the property should be divided between the step-sisters or what the wishes of the parents were, each step-sister stands to inherit all or nothing.

Whilst a Will cannot necessarily cover every scenario and possible future event, good advice and a well drafted Will can ensure that those left behind after such tragedy’s will be far more likely to be provided with clear direction and the detailed wishes of their loved ones, hopefully avoiding the kind of litigation and pain that has been caused in this case.

If you would like to discuss putting in place a Will, please contact a member of the Private Capital team to make an appointment

Posted on: 09/07/2019

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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