Does Your Will Have a Disaster Clause?
Summer is a time when many families go on a vacation together. And although this summer the family vacation may look much different than in previous years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a family vacation often involves many, if not all, family members traveling together. However, when families travel together there is the possibly (although rare) that an accident can happen in which all family members pass away at the same time, whether by a plane crash or car accident. Do you know who would get your estate if that happened? Many people do not, which is why summer is a good time to review your Will to make sure that it has what is sometimes referred to as a “disaster clause”.
A disaster clause in a Will is simply a clause which provides who will get your estate if all of the named beneficiaries in your Will do not survive you. For example, a typical Will usually states that if an individual dies, his or her estate will pass to the spouse, and if the spouse does not survive then the estate will pass to the children or to their heirs. But as in the example above, if all immediate members of a family die together in an accident, who would receive the estate? If your Will does not contain a provision stating how you want your estate to pass in this event, then the estate will pass under the intestacy laws of the state of Pennsylvania. The intestacy laws provide an order of priority as to who is entitled to receive your estate if you die without a Will (spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.). As such, if all of the immediate members of a family pass at the same time the estate will likely pass to a more distant relative by intestate succession. Which may be fine if that is your preference. However, if you would prefer that your estate pass to a charity or perhaps to a close friend or other individual, rather than a distant relative, then it is important to make sure that your Will has a disaster clause that clearly states how your estate will pass if all of your named beneficiaries predecease you.
Of course, the hope is that the disaster clause is never needed and that everyone has a safe and healthy vacation this year. But it is still wise to make sure that your Will provides for all contingencies so that your estate will pass according to your intentions. If you would like McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse and Ryan, P.C. to review, update or draft a new Will, please call our office at 610-648-9300 and ask to speak with one of our Estate Planning attorneys.