Simultaneous Death Act Law and Legal Definition

The Simultaneous Death Act is a state or local law which provides that if two persons (usually a husband and wife) both die under conditions in which it is impossible to determine which one died first, the property of each person shall be disposed of as if he had survived, except as provided otherwise.

Such statutes generally provide that when property is so disposed of that the right of a beneficiary to succeed to any interest therein is conditional upon his surviving another person and both persons die, and there is no sufficient evidence that the two have died other than simultaneously, the beneficiary shall be deemed not to have survived.

In the case of life insurance, for example, it's presumed the insured outlives the beneficiary, and the money goes to the secondary or contingent beneficiary. Deaths may be treated as simultaneous under the law even when one spouse dies within five days after the other one if both died due to a common accident. And some states have modified that act for people surviving as much as 120 days.

The following is an example of a state's Simultaneous Death Act:

"§ 2105.32. When person is deemed to have predeceased another person.

(A) Except as provided in section 2105.36 of the Revised Code, a person who is not established by clear and convincing evidence to have survived another specified person by one hundred twenty hours is deemed to have predeceased the other person for the following purposes:

  1. When the title to real or personal property or the devolution of real or personal property depends upon a person's survivorship of the death of another person;
  2. When the right to elect an interest in or exempt a surviving spouse's share of an intestate estate under section 2105.06 of the Revised Code depends upon a person's survivorship of the death of another person;
  3. When the right to elect an interest in or exempt an interest of the decedent in the mansion house pursuant to section 2106.10 of the Revised Code depends upon a person's survivorship of the death of another person;
  4. When the right to elect an interest in or exempt an allowance for support pursuant to section 2106.13 of the Revised Code depends upon a person's survivorship of the death of another person.

(B) This section does not apply if its application would result in a taking of an intestate estate by the state.

§ 2105.34. Disposition where there are co-owners with right of survivorship.

Except as provided in section 2105.36 of the Revised Code:

  1. If it is not established by clear and convincing evidence that one of two co-owners with right of survivorship in specified real or personal property survived the other co-owner by one hundred twenty hours, that property shall pass as if each person had survived the other person by one hundred twenty hours.
  2. If there are more than two co-owners with right of survivorship in specified real or personal property and it is not established by clear and convincing evidence that at least one of the co-owners survived the others by one hundred twenty hours, that property shall pass in the proportion that each person owns.

§ 2105.36. Governing instrument provisions; effect of statute against perpetuities.

A person who is not established by clear and convincing evidence to have survived another specified person by one hundred twenty hours shall not be deemed to have predeceased the other person if any of the following apply:

  1. The governing instrument contains language dealing explicitly with simultaneous deaths or deaths in a common disaster, and that language is operative under the situation in question.
  2. The governing instrument expressly indicates that a person is not required to survive an event by any specified period in order for any right or interest governed by the instrument to properly vest or transfer.
  3. The governing instrument expressly requires the person to survive the event for a specified period in order for any right or interest governed by the instrument to properly vest or transfer, and the survival of the event by the person or survival of the event by the person for the specified period is established by clear and convincing evidence.
  4. The imposition of a one-hundred-twenty-hour requirement of the person's survival of the other specified person causes a nonvested property interest or a power of appointment to be invalid under section 2131.08 of the Revised Code, and the person's survival of the other specified person is established by clear and convincing evidence.
  5. The application of a one-hundred-twenty-hour requirement of survival to multiple governing instruments would result in an unintended failure or duplication of a disposition, and the person's survival of the other specified person is established by clear and convincing evidence."