Is there anybody out there????
I’m not big on religion or spiritualisation – and given my football team’s demise last season, I can’t even say that St Mary’s is my church, although I’ve certainly spent a lot of time there praying recently, which may be paying off a little!
So where does that leave us in terms of life after death.
There may possibly be life after demotion from the Premier League but is there life once we shuffle off this mortal coil, from a legal perspective that is.
Or, to put it another way, can you continue to pursue a dead person?
In a recent family law case, the parties were weeks away from the final hearing in financial proceedings when the husband passed away. Given that he was in his 80s, perhaps this wasn’t such a great surprise. What was possibly surprising to the wife was that she was told that she could not proceed with her claim. She sought to substitute the executors of her estranged husband’s estate as parties to the proceedings, who were, unfortunately, her daughter and son in law – bet that made the next family dinner interesting! However, the Court refused. There was one particular quote in the proceedings that caught my eye, which was that death ends everything.
I beg to differ, from personal experience. I have, on one memorable occasion, made a deceased woman bankrupt. If you think that’s evil, I’ve made a little old lady bankrupt too, but that’s another story.
So what does happen if a party to proceedings passes away. Is the court saying that you have no recourse? No. In some circumstances (such as in my bankruptcy case) if the proceedings have already been commenced, you can continue, although you cannot start bankruptcy proceedings against a deceased. In other situations (such as in family matters) you may have to discontinue one set of proceedings, but there will be other options available to you. For example, the surviving spouse may have a claim against their ex under the Inheritance and Dependents Act.
However, claims under probate law are not nearly as straight forward as claims in family law proceedings, and as family law claims are NEVER straight forward, it’s a good idea to think ahead.
Whilst few of us know when our number is going to be up, if you are aware that your ex has health issues, that might be a good thing to tell your solicitor to take into account.
It’s also a timely reminder that it’s never a good idea to keep putting these things off. I’ve done several cases recently where the parties have been separated for some time and have only just got around to sorting out their paperwork. The longer you leave it, the more risk you could be at and the more complicated (and therefore legally expensive) things could become. Unless you think there could be some form of reconciliation, there may be nothing to be gained by waiting.
It’s also a good reminder of how tactical law can be. Although the divorce and the financial proceedings are two separate procedures in family law, we almost always advise clients to tie the two up, so that they both finish at about the same time. Almost always. There can be benefits to doing one before the other, depending on whether you are the one with the money or not. It’s always worth talking through the various scenarios with your legal adviser before you agree on a strategy. There are never any guarantees, but at least if you know what the options are, you can make an educated guess.
As with all things, both legal and football related, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Better than relying on a wing and a prayer.