A Justice of the High Court is being asked to make a ruling on an unusual case by two step-sisters to confirm which one of them will inherit £300,000.
John and Ann Scarle of Essex died at home in October 2016 of hypothermia. Their daughters from earlier marriages, Anna Winter (Mr. Scarle’s daughter) and Deborah Cutler (Mrs. Scarle’s daughter), are both seeking to be named sole beneficiary of the fortune.
This particular type of case has not been seen since the 1950s and requests the High Court to consider the Commorientes Rule. Introduced in 1926, this ruling was utilised following World War II when, during the Blitz air raids, many couples and families died simultaneously.
If a postmortem remains inconclusive in determining which individual died first, judges can use the Commorientes Rule, which makes the assumption that the eldest died first.
Scarle, who was last seen on October 3th or 4th, was aged 79 and his was wife 69 at the time of their deaths, which occurred about a week later on October 11. This indicates that if the Commorientes Rule is used to decide the dispute, it is Mrs. Cutler who stands to inherit.
Barrister for Mrs Cutler, James Weale, addressed Judge Phillip Kramer:
“The events which took place between the 3rd-4th October and the 11th October 2016 are unlikely ever to be known. The most that one can do is speculate as to what might have happened.”
The judge has not yet announced his final ruling on the case.