When two people die together, such as in a common accident, and it cannot be determined who died first, whose family does their property go to?
If two Florida residents died together, the Law of Simultaneous Death applies. This law can be found in Florida Statutes 732.601. It deems each person surviving the other for inheritance purposes. This law also applies to life insurance policies, joint property or properties owned as tenants by the entirety.
For a married couple who died in a common accident, this essentially means that a most of the property that belonged to each of the people who died will be going to their family, not their spouse’s family. The same will go for life insurance – it would go to the person’s family, not the spouse’s family.
Dying in a common accident is an uncommon occurrence, which most people don’t plan for. Because of that, most wills follow the default Florida law, described above. But it is possible to overwrite the default law with a will provision that states what happens when people die simultaneously, for example if they want some of their property to go to the spouse’s family.
Most wills and life insurance policies of married couples have contingency beneficiaries – people who get the inheritance or life insurance if the spouse is not living at the time. This is what is going to be triggered by a simultaneous death most of the time – the person’s family, not the spouse, receiving the property.
Property held jointly, such as a house or a bank account, would be split.
If you are involved in a simultaneous death situation and wish to speak to a Miami estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (786) 522-1411.