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From Chelsea to Leigh on sea – making legal history on our doorstep.
Last month our Legal Expert Melinda at Giles Wilson Solicitors wrote about a local case that went to the High Court and made headlines around the country.
With the decision in, Melinda appeared on the Dave Monk show on BBC Essex Radio this week to discuss it. Listen here
Editorial - July 2019
As I write this article, the High Court is still deciding on a case regarding a property in Leigh on sea. The last time that this situation was considered was in 1945 regarding a property in Chelsea. In each case, there was more than a property at stake; each case also involved tragic deaths and the emotional traumas of families left behind wondering what their loved ones wanted to leave behind.
The case in Leigh on sea has hit the mainstream papers; step sisters locked in battle over who will inherit their parent’s property. The tragedy is that their parents were found dead in the property, and it has not yet been determined who died first. The order of death has implications for their daughters’ inheritance, and the reason is that who ever died second would have automatically inherited the property from the first one to die. The couple, who were married, each had a daughter from their previous relationships, and therefore the daughter of the last one to die, will inherit because there was no will. Only your biological child will inherit if you die without a will. And so, the two daughters are locked in battle to prove which one of their parents died first.
The reason that this case is making legal history is because if there is no evidence as to which one died first, then we revert to the 1925 Law of Property Act, and this was last tested in 1945 when a house in Chelsea was bombed in the Battle of Britain. In that case there were 5 occupants that died, and once again, the order of deaths was important.
The Law of Property Act 1925 states that where it is uncertain which survived, “the younger shall be deemed to have survived the elder”.
Until we receive the written judgment we will not know all the details of the Leigh on sea case, but it seems that the married couple who died in such tragedy must have owned their house jointly so that it automatically passed to the survivor of them. This could have been avoided – they could have owned the property as tenants in common with a declaration of trust, and they could then have had a Will each, leaving their own half to their own daughter. If that is what they wanted to happen of course. And that is the double tragedy – we do not know what they wanted, and now their daughters are fighting in court over it.
Chelsea Case: Hickman V Peacey (1945) A.C. 304 https://www.ucc.ie/academic/law/irlii/articles/Commorientes.htm
This editorial is by Melinda Giles at Giles Wilson Solicitors.