Great news! Or not: “Feds Say Legally Dead Is Slightly Alive”

You might recall − surely it was memorable − that story from Lowering the Bar about a guy named Donald Miller who disappeared and then re-appeared, only to discover he was legally dead.

It was a good story. Maybe not for Donald Miller, but the rest of us had something to chew over and probably laugh at, a little.

So here is Kevin Underhill’s follow-up story. It just may be that Donald Miller might be “slightly alive.” !  Feds Say Legally Dead Is Slightly Alive – Lowering the Bar. Although I don’t think that Donald Miller or his family are too pleased since at least one part of the feds reasoning has to do with getting their money back. Here’s how it begins:

Feds Say Legally Dead Is Slightly Alive

Miracle Max: He probably owes you money, huh? I’ll ask him.

Inigo Montoya: He’s dead. He can’t talk.

Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo: What’s that?

Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

The Princess Bride (1987) 

This doesn’t quite fit, but it’s close and an excuse to quote The Princess Bride. Here the question is the difference between legally dead and slightly alive. As you may remember, last year a judge declared that under Ohio law, Donald Miller was still legally dead, which was a real disappointment to Donald Miller especially since he had argued otherwise at the hearing. See “‘No, You’re Still Deceased,'” Judge Tells Dead Man,” Lowering the Bar (Oct. 10, 2013).

Miller had disappeared in 1986, or at least he disappeared from Ohio (he could still be seen in Florida if you knew where to look). In 1994 Judge Allan Davis declared him legally dead at the request of the wife and kids he left behind, who wanted to apply for Social Security death benefits. (Having vanished, Miller of course was not paying child support.) Under state law a person can be presumed dead after five years. Miller had been gone for eight, and efforts to find him (for child-support purposes) had been unsuccessful.

When Miller showed up again last year, he hoped to establish that he was still alive. The problem is that under state law, this has to be done “within a three-year period from the date of the decree….” So “I don’t know where that leaves you,” Judge Davis told Miller, “but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned.” And he still is, because he did not appeal that ruling.

Well, he’s still deceased as far as Ohio is concerned. To the federal government, though, legally dead is slightly alive. And that means it’s looking for loose change. But not in Miller’s pockets.


What happens if you are dead under state law but alive as far as the feds are concerned? Good question.

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