A disaster clause in a Will is a catch-all clause which states who will get your estate if all of the named beneficiaries in your Will do not survive you.
A disaster clause, as the name implies, only comes into effect if a disaster occurs. It is there to cover the rare occurrence of all beneficiaries and reserve beneficiaries dying before the person who has made the Will dies.
The disaster clause specifies where you would like your estate to go in the rare event that all your beneficiaries named in your Will pre-decease you or die at the same time as you. A disaster clause stops your money from going to distant family members or to the state when there’s nobody else in the family line to inherit. A disaster clause essentially makes sure that the Will covers all eventualities, which is a good thing in an era where contentious probate claims are on the rise.
The disaster clause goes by a number of other names including contingent beneficiary, disaster provision, common tragedy clause, and ultimate gift-over clause. While it's rare for disaster clauses to be called upon whatever they are called, it's still important to have one written into your Will just in case. Examples of situations where disaster clauses in Wills have been utilised include tragedies that have claimed the lives of whole families at the same time.
If all of the named beneficiaries in a Will predecease the person making the Will, then the estate would be distributed as though they had died without a valid Will in place. If there is no clause within a Will, then intestacy rules will apply to any part of the residue of the estate where there are no surviving beneficiaries. Children from previous marriages, 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. If there were no surviving relatives, then everything would pass to the Crown. Of course, the hope is that the disaster clause is never needed. 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.
We provide the option for people to name charities as beneficiaries in the disaster clause in their Wills written via our website. We feel it is an ideal opportunity to nominate a charity that has helped you or your loved ones during your lifetime or there's a particular cause you care about. If a charity does receive a legacy via a disaster clause, it could be a substantial amount, particularly if they are the sole beneficiary named in the disaster clause. All our Wills have a disaster clause option. If you have an existing Will without a disaster clause, you should ask yourself why it was not mentioned to you by the solicitor/adviser who wrote your Will.
If you have any other questions about disaster clauses, please contact us and we will do our best to help you.