Woman wins £300k inheritance court battle with stepsister over timing of parents’ deaths

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A WOMAN has won a £300,000 inheritance court fight with her stepsister over which of their parents died first.

A judge ruled it was impossible to say and used a 93-year-old law to settle the case.

Champion News Service Ltd

Deborah Cutler won the case because of an 93-year-old law[/caption]

Champion News Service Ltd

Anna Winter missed out on any of her dad’s inheritance[/caption]

Remarried John Scarle, 79, and wife Ann, 69, are believed to have died soon after one other from hypothermia at their bungalow.

John’s daughter, Anna Winter, and Ann’s daughter, Deborah Cutler, could not agree to share proceeds of the £280,000 home plus £18,000 left in a bank and went to the High Court instead.

Whoever was last alive would have briefly inherited the other’s share — meaning cash from the bungalow in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, would all go to their offspring.

Yesterday Judge Philip Kramer said it must be presumed Mr Scarle died first as he was the eldest.

As a result Mrs Cutler inherits the estate.

‘WHO DIED FIRST’ ROW

Judge Kramer said there were “too many variables and unknowns” to allow him to say who survived longest.

Mrs Winter’s barrister insisted Ann, cared for by John after a stroke, most likely died first.

But Mrs Cutler’s lawyer James Weale successfully argued the 1926 law called The Commorientes Rule should be applied.

That states if the order of death cannot be ­determined, a judge uses the rule which always assumes the older of the two died first.

After the ruling Mr Weale said Mrs Cutler was forced into “hostile litigation”, having previously made a “plainly reasonable” offer to share the estate.


He said: “It was always a case which cried out for settlement.

“The defendant could not have done any more to resolve the dispute.”

The court also heard John left £160,000 to Mrs Winter. But she has been ordered to pay the vast majority of the costs of the case, which are estimated at over £170,000.

East News Press Agency

The deceased couple’s home is worth £280,000[/caption]

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