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Winter v Cutler

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Winter v Cutler
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
CourtEngland and Wales High Court
Decided14 August 2019
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingPhilip Kramer QC

Winter v Cutler is an English legal case revolving around wills, probate and inheritance. Decided by the England & Wales High Court (EWHC), the case built on previously unclear areas surrounding Section 184 of the Law of Property Act 1925.[1]

Facts[edit | edit source]

John and Ann Scarle were a married couple with children from previous relationships. The claimant was the daughter of John Scarle. The defendant was the daughter of Ann Scarle. Both John and Ann had passed away with no clear indication of who had died first. The question for the court to decide was which step-sibling, in the absence of a clear will, would inherit the property the Scarle's had lived in and a sum of money in their bank account. The defendant, Cutler, had originally attempted to use mediation in order to offer a 50/50 split, which was rejected by Winter who began litigation.[2]

Judgment[edit | edit source]

The defendant relied on Section 184 of the Law of Property Act 1925, also known as the Commorientes Rule.[3] This states that the oldest person in the pair/group is assumed to have died first when the circumstances are unclear. The judge accepted this view, assuming that the older John Scarle had passed first. Therefore, under the Right of Survivorship in joint tenancies, the whole estate had been absorbed by Ann Scarle before passing to the defendant upon Mrs Scarle's death. Therefore, Cutler inherited the entire estate and the sum of money in the bank account. The claimant was awarded nothing and ordered to pay £179,000 worth of legal fees.[4]

References[edit | edit source]

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