TMG-L ArchivesArchiver > TMG > 2002-10 > 1035415399
From: "Darrell A. Martin" <>
Subject: Re: [TMG] OT: Date of death
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 18:23:19 -0500
At 04:43 PM 10/23/02 -0400, Evelyn Hendricks wrote:
>The time of death on my mother's death certificate is not correct either.
>I know she died about 5:30 in the morning. The care person called me.
>After I arrived the rescue squad who had to be called took her to the
>hospital. The doctor finally got around to pronouncing her dead about 8:30
>in the morning. I wonder how many certificates are not correct.
>Another thing. Just because you can't find a death certificate does not
>mean that the person did not die where you thought they might. My
>grandmother died in 1950 but neither the county or state has a death
>certificate for her. Neither is there one for my great-grandmother who
>died in 1933 at age 92. Sometimes the person who was responsible for
>filing them was negligent.
It is very important to understand what a legal death document does, and
does not, say. A death certificate -- even if it *says* something like
"time of death" -- does not actually claim to represent the more or less
precise time at which the deceased was no longer among us. Rather it
indicates the time (by the determination of a legally competent authority)
after which the deceased should be legally treated as in fact deceased. Of
course, the law intends that the two coincide as much as is practical.
However, when there is a discrepancy (other than simple error, such as a
typo) the legal determination rules -- for legal purposes. The primary one
is that of inheritance.
A simple example will suffice. If a man and his second wife are killed in a
car accident, for genealogical purposes they died simultaneously. However,
assume the following:
he had no children by either wife
his will leaves everything to his second wife, unless she predeceases him
his will says if his wife predeceases him, his nephew gets it all
her will leaves everything to her children by her first marriage
The precise determination of the time of death is not only a medical
question, it is a legal one, and as I understand it the rules vary from
state to state. The ramifications will be as large as the estate (and if
the estate is a large one, my example bids fair to make at least a couple
of lawyers more affluent). His nephew and her children may not be on the
best of terms when all is said and done.
Genealogically, the man and his second wife *still* died at the same time,
Darrell Allen MARTIN
a native Vermonter currently in exile in Addison, Illinois
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