In the law of England and Wales, contracts are terminated by performance, agreement, breach or frustration. In most cases, contracts are performed in full, or are terminated by agreement - either by exercise of termination rights in the original contract, or by a further contract that amends the original contract and brings the contract to an end.
Voidability often relates to termination by breach. If there is a repudiatory breach, such as a breach of a major term known as a condition, the innocent party has the right to terminate the contract, or to affirm the contract and pursue the counterparty for damages. As such, the contract can be thought of a voidable.
There are other circumstances that make a contract voidable, including misrepresentation, undue influence or duress.
There is no general rule that death of a party makes a contract voidable.
What you say, that death voids contracts, is untrue in most cases. Some contracts are void on death (like the provision of a personal service), but in general contracts which involve a financial commitment do not, unless they contain specific terms. It is then a matter for the deceased's estate to settle early termination clauses.
Provision of a personal service that becomes impossible after the provider's death will frustrate the contract.
For instance, if you die whilst you have an outstanding loan on a car, then the balance is still recoverable from the deceased person's estate.
So the actual position depends on the nature of the contract.
Quite right - in general, all obligations, liabilities and benefits pass to the estate after death.
Note, I'm not commenting on Zen's position, or even anything specific to this case. However, what is definitely wrong is to state that a contract is necessarily void on death. In most cases it will be terminated with whatever rules are established for its early ending. A contract being voided (which means it is treated, as far as possible, as if it never existed and is not enforceable in law) and a contract being terminated are very different things.
As you rightly say, if there are express termination provisions applying to death, they will take effect. If not, the contract likely remains in force with the estate standing in the place of the deceased party.
In this case, the MSE thread says there has been a fire at the address served. I haven't thought about this in detail, though it is possible the fire frustrates the contract. That said, if there is any insurance on the property that covers inability to use services after fire, I'd leave the matter with the insurers to sort, letting them worry about whether to consider the legal ramifications of the situation or negotiate termination arrangements with Zen.
Edited by David_W (Sat 13-Jun-15 15:35:43)