PicGenerally at law, a person is presumed to have died seven years from the date he or she was last seen. This was relevant to the estate of Arthur Thompson because, when he died in 2006, his wife, Susan had not been heard of, by those expected to hear from her if she was alive, since 1999. However, whilst from 2007 onwards, she was presumed to be dead, the law does not presume a date of death without specific evidence. So she wasn’t presumed to be dead on the date in 2006 when Arthur died. In 2007, the Coroner declared Susan dead. However, that didn’t assist because it didn’t establish a date of death.

As Susan wasn’t presumed dead before Arthur’s death, she inherited his property. Her beneficiaries then inherited through her estate. If Susan turns up alive, the presumption will be rebutted, and she will inherit the estate. All of which is a big improvement on the position which faced Donald Miller. He had been pronounced dead in 1994 after he had been missing for eight years. In 2005, Miller, who had moved from a Ohio to Florida in the US, returned to Ohio. He then wanted to reclaim his driver’s license and social security card. However, a court stated that he was unable to do so because he’d been pronounced dead in 1994, that that decree could only be set aside within three years of it being made, and that time period had lapsed. This was so even though the judge stated that Miller was “sitting in the court room… in good health…”. Hence the benefit of a limited presumption of death (in Australia) compared with an absolute presumption of death (as in Ohio).



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