18.20 Simultaneous Death Act

18.20.1

In General

The Uniform Simultaneous Death Act has been enacted in practically every state, although with certain variations or modifications in some jurisdictions.

The purpose of the Act is to supply equitable rules, which are applicable to cases where two or more persons have died in a common accident or disaster and there is no sufficient evidence to indicate that the deaths occurred otherwise than simultaneously.

The Act furnishes a guide, by which a court of competent jurisdiction may determine in the absence of evidence, that the property of each person who died in a common accident or disaster, shall be disposed of as if the person had survived.

The Act also provides that where there is not sufficient evidence that two joint tenants or tenants by the entirety have died otherwise than simultaneously, the property so held, shall be distributed one-half as if one had survived and one-half as if the other had survived. If there are more than two joint tenants and all of them have so died, the property thus distributed shall be in the proportion that one bears to the whole number of joint tenants.

No presumptions as to survivorship between persons killed in a common disaster arise under the Act, except possibly in the case of death of a beneficiary and donor in a common disaster or in case of beneficiaries in life or accident policies, nor is there a presumption that the deaths were simultaneous.