When two spouses are in a common accident and both die at the same time, or it can’t be determined which spouse passed away first, figuring out what should happen to the estate of each spouse can become tricky. This is why Florida has adopted the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act. This is a law that specifies the order in which each spouse’s estate is to be distributed if there is no evidence that one spouse survived the other. It only takes effect when the couple’s Wills are silent as to which spouse is presumed to have survived the other, or when the spouses die without an estate plan. What does the law say?
When it comes to probate assets, whether or not there’s a Will, the property of each spouse is distributed as though each spouse survived the other. So, if Bill and Mary, a married couple, pass away at the same time, and both have Wills that leave their estates first to each other and then to their daughter, then each spouse’s property will go to their daughter. Why? Because for purposes of Bill’s estate, Mary is treated as having died before him, so his property goes to their daughter. The same is true for Mary’s estate, resulting in her property being distributed to their daughter, too.
What about a life insurance policy where one spouse is the insured and the other spouse is the beneficiary? If both spouses pass away simultaneously, the insurance policy is distributed as though the insured had survived the beneficiary. The result? The life insurance proceeds go to the alternate beneficiary. If no alternate beneficiary is named, then the proceeds go to the estate of the insured.
Of course, when you’re planning your estate, you can work around the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act if you don’t like its provisions. For example, your Wills could stipulate that, in the event of a simultaneous death, only one of you is deemed to have survived the other.