This could very well be a case of the walking dead, or the zombie apocalypse, but the reality is a lot less terrifying. There sure are some strange laws in the world. Some laws were made for a specific reason, while others, as is the case with this law, were simply overlooked. Ohio, in the United States has a law that allows people to request a decree to declare a person deceased if they have been unheard of for a period of five years. This is mainly to allow for probate to proceed, real and personal property can be distributed and life insurances to be paid out and so on. The law in Ohio does allow a period of three years for a person who has been declared dead, but isn’t, to challenge their death and be declared living. One man found this out the hard way when he was declared dead, but returned too many years later to say he was living. But as far as the law was concerned, he was still dead.
Donald Eugene Miller Jr. disappeared from his Arcadia home in 1988, and in 1994 his ex wife requested the decree to declare him legally dead so Social Security death benefits could be paid to their two children. Life went on for another eleven years for the residents of Arcadia and the late Mr Millers family, until he resurfaced in 2005. His parents informed him that he had been declared legally dead years earlier.
Miller didn’t worry too much about it at the time. It wasn’t until he decided that he wanted access to his social security and drivers licence that he decided to challenge his death in court.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Judge Allan Davis made the point that the law only allowed for a person to be declared living if they showed up within the three year period after the initial decree was made. Judge Davis said of the unusual case, “I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned.”
While being declared dead has potentially cost Mr Miller his drivers licence and access to social security, he has also saved over $26,000 in overdue child support by 1994 alone. Others on twitter have also suggested that this ruling also means that he could potentially break the law or avoid paying taxes because you can’t jail a dead man. I wouldn’t count on the legal system being so understanding if this were to eventuate.