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Do I need a disaster clause in my Will?

When drafting or amending a Will, it’s important to consider all eventualities. However, one unlikely scenario which is often, and perhaps understandably, overlooked is the inclusion of a disaster clause.

A disaster or ‘common tragedy’ clause covers the arrangements to be made if all your intended beneficiaries die before you or at the same time. Thankfully, the chances of becoming a victim of a disaster are remote. However, it’s worth including a clause of this nature if you have children who are under 18, or where you and your beneficiaries are likely to travel together as a group on a regular basis.

In most cases, couples make provision in their Wills for each other and then for any children they may have. But what happens to the estate following an accident or disaster in which the entire family unit are killed?

In the tragic case of multi-millionaire businessman Richard Cousins, he and his family died in seaplane crash on New Year’s Eve 2017. He had included a ‘common tragedy’ clause in his Will. As a result, £41million which his family had stood to inherit was instead donated to the charity Oxfam.

If the Will makes no provision, then intestacy rules will apply to any part of the residue of the estate where there are no surviving beneficiaries. In the given scenario, the parents of the testator would inherit the estate. If they are already deceased, it would fall to other blood relatives, who may themselves be distant to the testator.

If an estate passes to parents, where there is a joint Will made by the deceased spouses, then there could be the complication of two sets of parents being involved. A disaster clause can help by ensuring the estate is split equally between them.

Children from any previous marriages, who the parent did not intend on including in their Will, could make a claim for a share of an estate. Again, if no disaster clause is present, then intestacy rules apply and that child will inherit the estate partially or fully, including property in some cases. Equally, divorced parents, distant relatives and those estranged as a result of family feuds may end up with everything through the rules of intestacy if there is no disaster clause contained in the Will.

Therefore, remote as the potential circumstances may seem, a disaster clause is worthy of consideration if you are making or amending a Will.