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Thinking of making a Will? Consider including both a 'safety net' or 'common tragedy clause'.

Death. It’s a subject that inevitably causes heartache in every family. It is also something that no one has control over; when it happens or what it is caused by.

However, the one thing that we can do is to ensure that our loved ones will continue to be cared for when we are no longer able to do so ourselves.

Making a Will is incredibly important as this is the only way to ensure this can happen. If you die without leaving a valid Will, this means that the Intestacy Rules dictate where your estate passes. This is a set of legal rules that consider who is still alive in a certain part of your blood line and who will become eligible to receive a share of your estate. Therefore, there is the potential that family members who you have not had contact with to benefit from your estate, rather than your chosen loved ones.

When deciding on how you wish to distribute your estate, it is important to cover all aspects and to delve a little deeper. Rather than just concentrating on who you would leave your estate to in the first instance, it is prudent to think about worse case scenarios.

For example, in the case of a married couple with children it is often the case that everything goes to the surviving spouse on first death, but if they die and their spouse has predeceased them then it passes down to the children.

Question- what happens if when you pass away both your spouse and your children have died before you?

Answer- You are back to square one. If none of your beneficiaries (the people you name to benefit from your estate) are alive at the time of your death and your Will makes no provision for these circumstances, then again the Intestacy Rules would dictate how your estate would be distributed.

It is therefore prudent to consider including two things in your Will:-

At QualitySolicitors Parkinson Wright as part of our RightWill Service we have a “safety net”, whereby you confirm in your Will what would happen to your estate if all of your chosen beneficiaries died before you. If using the example above this would mean confirming what would happen if both your spouse and children predeceased you or;

A “common tragedy clause”, whereby you confirm what is to happen if you and your chosen beneficiaries all died at the same time.

Surely this is unlikely to happen?

Mr Richard Cousins died in a seaplane accident on New Years Eve in Australia in 2017. In the plane with him was his fiancée, his two sons and her daughter. Tragically all 5 plus the captain of the plane all died together.

A year earlier Mr Cousins has updated his Will to include a “common tragedy clause” confirming that in the unlikely event both he and his two sons were killed together that Oxfam would mainly benefit from his estate.

Accordingly, it has been reported that Oxfam will now be receiving £41 million with his two brothers getting £1 million each. Although this was a tragic accident and not something that could have been foreseen, by updating and including this clause in his Will, Mr Cousins has ensured that his estate is still distributed how he wanted it to be. The Intestacy Rules do not play any part.

However remote this may seem, it is always advisable to plan for the worst-case scenario in your Will. No one knows what the future holds therefore, it is advisable to ensure that you state what your wishes would be if the worst was to happen.

If you would like to discuss making changes to your Will or updating your Will please call 01905 721600 and contact a member of our Private Client Team who would be delighted to assist you.



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