It is common to see provisions in wills stating that in order for a beneficiary to inherit, they must survive the testator by 30 days. The advantage of including such a provision is that it avoids extra fees and expenses associated with administering the same assets twice should the testator and the beneficiary die within a short period of each other. It also avoids an unintentional distribution if the survivor`s (or deemed survivor`s) will is not the same as the testator`s will.
A similar term is a “quick succession” clause referring to the situation of two people, usually spouses, dying where it is not possible to state which one survived the other. For example, a cruise ship disaster where no survivors are found. Spouses very often have wills naming the survivor of them the sole executor and sole beneficiary. If, in the case of such a disaster, one spouse survived the other by only a few hours, then the whole estate will transfer to the surviving spouse and be immediately payable out of the estate of the survivor. This would involve double estate administration, double fees and often double tax. The 30-day survivorship clause is, therefore, often used with the hope that if a person survives for thirty days, it is less likely that he or she will die as a direct result of the accident.
If a will does not contain a survivorship clause and two or more people die at the same time or in circumstances where it is uncertain who died first, statutory provisions deem each person to have survived the other. The result is that the alternative instructions contained in each person’s will (i.e. clauses containing substitute beneficiaries) will take effect, or, where there is no will, the nearest surviving kin will inherit. Thus, a testator who is reluctant to include a survivorship clause should be aware of the possible effect of these statutory survivorship rules.
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