Obituaries attempt to summarize a life in a few short paragraphs in print or online. They may describe a person’s occupation and place of residence, list the person’s family and close friends, and set out the funeral or memorial arrangements that have been made. They might also set out the cause of death.
Stephen Merrill, a Florida resident, died at the young age of 31. His obituary states that he passed away on February 12, 2015 “due to an uppercut from Batman”.
The story behind this unusual obituary appears to be that the newspaper in which the obituary was to be published indicated that their policies required a cause of death to be listed. The family and friends did not know the cause of death at the time that the obituary was to be arranged.
While a well-written obituary, like Stephen Merrill’s, can bring some comfort to a person’s loved ones, obituaries can sometimes play a role in estate disputes. Disagreements about the wording of an obituary may be among the first arguments that occur about the administration of the estate of a recently deceased person. Omitting or misdescribing someone can lead to resentment and hurt feelings.
Sometimes, obituaries play a role in estate litigation. Where there is a dispute as to whether or not someone was living in a spousal relationship with the deceased, the obituary may serve as evidence. Here’s one recent example from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench where an obituary was used as evidence in support of a finding that someone was an adult interdependent partner of the deceased under the relevant Alberta legislation.
Of course, an uppercut from Batman could not have been the late Stephen Merrill’s real cause of death. Batman doesn’t kill.