The exact time of death of a couple who died in a car accident became the focus of a legal wrangle where the wife was the beneficiary of her husband’s life insurance policy.

Cape Times report says the Liberty Group paid the nearly R1.4m payout to the executor of Mrs Becker’s estate.

But then the insurer got wind that Mrs Becker died at 00.15am in January 2018 and Mr Becker was certified as dead at 3.10am.

Thus, it reasoned, as Mrs Becker died first, she (or her estate, in this case) could not benefit from the policy, as her husband was alive when she died.

Liberty turned to the Northern Cape High Court (Kimberley) to compel the executor of the woman’s estate to pay the amount back to it.

The court noted that when several people died in the same disaster, it might be of importance to establish who died first in order to determine whether one inherited from the other, because a person can inherit from another only if they are alive at the time of the other’s death.

A sergeant had confirmed that Mr Becker was declared dead at 3.10am due to the fact that it took longer to remove his body from the vehicle.

His evidence was that the time of certification of death did not equate to the time of death, as certification was done after a body was extracted.

According to medical evidence, Mr Becker would have died immediately.

The court concluded that, on a proper evaluation of the evidence, it could come to no other conclusion than to find that the deaths were not simultaneous, but that Mr Becker pre-deceased Mrs Becker.

Mrs Becker had an enforceable right (as beneficiary of her husband’s life policy) that was transmissible to her estate.

Full Cape Times report