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Intestacy battle!

View profile for Leah Woodnott
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Intestacy battle!

Step-sisters, Anna Winter and Deborah Cutler have gone to the High Court to fight over their potential inheritance after elderly parents, John Scarle and Ann Scarle died from hypothermia at their home in Leigh-on-Sea.

John and Ann died without leaving a Will and medical professionals have not been able determine who passed away first.

The family are now relying on 100 year old law to determine who will inherit the estate, with the step-daughter of whoever survived the longest, inheriting the entire estate.  The other step-daughter will be left with nothing.

John and Ann owned their property worth £280,000 as joint tenants and therefore on the first of either John or Ann passing away, their house automatically passes to the survivor of them. 

As John and Ann did not leave a Will, the intestacy rules will then apply to the survivor.  The intestacy rules are a strict set of rules which determine the order in which family can inherit.

As medical evidence has been unable to deem who died first, Anna and Deborah have asked Judge Philip Kramer to rule which parent died first which will in turn mean that one step-daughter will not inherit anything.

Ann’s daughter, Deborah claims because John is the eldest, the legal presumption should be that he died first and therefore in turn Ann’s family should inherit the property.

Section 184 of the Law of Property Act 1925 states that where two or more persons have died in circumstances rendering it uncertain which of them survived the other, it is to be presumed to have occurred in order of seniority and accordingly the younger shall be deemed to have survived the elder.

John’s daughter, Anna rebuts this presumption and believes that Ann passed away first due to the condition of her body and therefore John’s family should inherit the estate.

Judge Philip Kramer has reserved his ruling and therefore the inheritance battle continues.

This case highlights the importance of executing a Will to ensure that your loved ones have been provided for and are not left with a legal battle on their hands on your passing.

If you would like to discuss making a Will, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on or 01206 217609.