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Common Disaster Clause for Couples

Known as a common disaster clause, couples should ensure that their residual estate would pass to the surviving spouse only after surviving the testator by a specified period of time, typically 30 days. This means that if one spouse were to die, instead of the residual estate passing immediately to the other spouse, it is held up for the specified period of time.

Why this is important is it is not unusual for couples caught in a common disaster to be pronounced deceased at separate times. By example a couple could be involved in a fatal car accident. If the husband was pronounced deceased at 12:05am, and the wife deceased at 12:08am, this would create double administration costs for the estates.

This is because each estate would be processed separately for the husband and wife. In other words, the husband’s estate would pass to the wife, and then her estate with the husbands would pass to the contingent beneficiaries. If the couple had a common disaster clause in their Wills, they would be processed together, as the wife would not inherit her husband’s estate, but rather the contingent beneficiaries would inherit them together, after the specified period of time.

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