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Why have a simultaneous-death clause in your estate plan?

Married couples in New York may have taken the steps to create an estate plan. However, what happens if they both die at the same time, for example, in a fatal car crash? This can complicate the probate process, making it more difficult for their assets to be passed on to their heirs.

However, there are some ways to avoid such complications. Many married couples in New York who have an estate plan include what is known as a "simultaneous-death clause" in their will. In such a clause, each partner leaves most if not all of their property to the other partner. If both partners pass away at the same time, or if it cannot be determined who passed away first, then the clause will be put into action, and name one partner or the other as the first to pass away. This simplifies the handing down of assets to their heirs.

If a married couple does not have a simultaneous-death clause in their will, and they pass away at the same time, their situation may fall under the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act. Under this law, if a married couple leaves property to each other in a will, and then they both pass away within a certain amount of time, which can be anywhere from 120 hours to three months, depending on the state, then for legal purposes each party will be deemed to have predeceased the other.

While some people may think that creating a will on their own is an easy thing to do, in fact the language of the will must be very precise and legally sound if the will is to achieve what the decedent wants it to achieve. Therefore, it can help to have the right estate planning approach to ensure the plan meets the needs of the decedent and the needs of heirs.

Source: Madison.com, "Protect Your Estate Plan With a 'Titanic' Clause," Mark Cussen, Jan. 30, 2017

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