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Simultaneous Death

DEFINITION

When multiple parties that are entitled to the estate of the other party’s dies at the same time the estate will be probated in the order of interest holder’s.

EXPLANATION

One situation in which probate could be necessary is simultaneous death. This occurs when multiple parties who are entitled to the other’s estate die at the same time (or very close to the same time).

This situation typically arises in the case of unnatural deaths, such as those caused by accidents or homicides. If there is evidence that one deceased party outlasted the other deceased party (even if by moments), the estates of both parties would be distributed in that order and to subsequent heirs/beneficiaries.

Uniform Simultaneous Death Act:

A law that is used in order to dictate the inheritance of an estate when more than one individual loses their life in a given event. The law can only be applied if there is proof that one individual outlived the other. In participating states, the act has a 120-hour survival span for individuals who have been involved in the same incident as their consort. The time window provided by the law is designed so that if one’s counterpart or counterparts have survived the others by five days, then they are entitled to the benefits of the estate and subsequently so are their relatives. On the contrary, if both or all of the individuals are pronounced dead within the time frame, with no will, then their assets will be equally distributed to the remaining relatives.

The terms of the 120-hour survival span may be subject to change if one’s will has a proviso pertaining to the release of assets in the case of a simultaneous death.

Aside from any provisions set by a will, the survival period may also be disregarded if it had disadvantageous effects, for instance, a duplication of a disposition or an unintended failure.

The act has been implemented in most of the U.S states as the Uniform Probate Code included the law within its parameters. The law was introduced in 1940 with multiple revisions coming after its establishment. A stipulation that was introduced in 1993 stated that if an individual has been missing for at least five years with no body being found, the law can then be applied.

Example:

If a married couple were to be involved in a serious car accident, leaving both individuals dead then this would call for the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act as one could not determine exactly who died first. If this same scenario were to take place, leaving the wife alive for a few days longer while the husband was deceased, this would effectively disqualify the act from being used.

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