It has recently been reported that two stepsisters have had to rely on a 1925 law to determine the distribution of their parents’ Estate (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/08/13/woman-beats-stepsister-300000-high-court-inheritance-battle/).
In this very sad case John Scarle, aged 79 and Marjorie Scarle, aged 69 both passed away in their home in October 2016, but the order of their deaths is unknown. The couple jointly owned their property together with an account with the Co-operative. This means that the survivor of them inherited the other’s share in the property and bank account.
Where it is not possible to determine the order in which two people have died, s184 of the Law of Property Act 1925 raises a presumption that the deaths occurred in order of seniority. It has therefore been held that Mrs Scarle outlived Mr Scarle and as a result, she inherited the property and the Co-operative account that then passes as part of her Estate to her children.
This case has highlighted the importance of making a will particularly where there are children from previous relationships such as in this case. It is also important to consider how assets are owned to ensure that each party is able to distribute their share of the asset in accordance with their own wishes and not leave this up to the survivor of them to determine. The cost for the preparation of a single will is in the region of £275 plus VAT or for mirror wills is in the region of £375 plus VAT whereas it has been reported that the legal costs in determining this case have amounted to around £150,000.