Reduce Estate Fees with a 30-Day Survivor Clause

Star Wars fans and admirers were shocked when Princess Leia, actor Carrie Fisher, suffered a massive heart attack aboard a United Airlines flight two days before Christmas Day 2016. Her mother, America’s Sweetheart Debbie Reynolds, tweeted her appreciation to fans and friends the next day. “I thank you for your prayers & good wishes,” her heartfelt Tweet read. Fisher, 60, died three days later. Her mother, who was 84, passed away 24 hours later of a stroke.

Broken Heart Syndrome is Real

Broken heart syndrome is real, psychologists say, caused by the overwhelming physical stress from grieving the loss of a child or lifetime partner. That struck home in Windsor when a couple married for 72 years died within five days of each other. Their daughter said they were inseparable. 

An Undying Love

The death of a 91-year-old Thorncliffe senior within minutes of his wife, who was 82 and hospitalized with leukemia, confirms their point. Badru succumbed peacefully at home as his family gathered at the hospital to say their final goodbyes to his wife. He had refused to go because he said his wife was already with him. His son found Badru when he returned home after his mother passed away.

Sudden Deaths Devastating to Families

A spouse’s death is especially hard on frail seniors. A car accident, house fire or any disaster can be equally devastating on families. When an elderly Bobcaygeon couple died of COVID-19 a week apart, a 95-year-old relative called their sudden deaths so close together “unfathomable”. 

Why Wills Have Survival Clauses

Survival rights in Ontario wills are intended for just these situations. The clause sets out what happens if the will maker and an heir like a spouse or child die at nearly the same time, of natural causes or an accident. Deciding who died first to dispose of a will can be hard to figure out. Survival clauses right the unfairness caused when beneficiaries die almost immediately after inheriting an estate. 

Pros of a 30-Day Survival Clause

Besides the expense of probating two estates almost simultaneously, not having a survival clause can leave some heirs out and others with a greater share of an estate than the deceased had planned. A 30-day survival clause rights that.

Deaths Closely Together Cause Estate to Pass Outside Will

If Barbara and Ben have children from previous marriages and Ben leaves his estate to Barbara, she inherits everything when he dies. That’s only fair in Ben’s eyes. He wants to provide for Barbara for the rest of her life. His children and hers can inherit their shares after Barbara dies. But if Barbara dies a week after him, Ben’s assets may go to Barbara’s heirs, not his. Because he died before her, his assets are now part of her estate. His assets pass outside his will to Barbara and his children get sidestepped. Even if Ben is gracious, it may not be what he had in mind.  

How a Survival Clause Works

If Ben had included a survival clause in his will, Barbara would not inherit at all unless she survived him by at least 30 days (or whatever period Ben chooses). The estate trustee would hold off distributing the estate until the 30 days passed. In the event she died during the 30 days, Ben’s estate would go to his heirs. That’s because it never passed to Barbara at all. Only her estate would go to her children.

When a Common Accident Occurs

Including a survival clause is useful in case an accident occurs that causes multiple deaths in the same family. For example, Ben might leave his estate residue to Barbara if she survives him by 30 days. In case Ben and Barbara die within hours of each other in an accident, Ben can arrange in his will to divide his estate equally among his surviving children. If Ben, Barbara and all of Ben’s children die in the same accident, Ben’s will can state his estate will go to his grandchildren. By including a survival clause, Ben can prevent his estate being probated multiple times: first when it passes to Barbara, next when it passes to each of his children and then again when his children’s estate is passed on to their children (Ben’s grandchildren).

Reducing Probate Expenses and Delays

Ben knows each time the estate is probated, his executor must get a certificate of appointment of an estate trustee and pay a fee to government. It’s a lot of hassle. By having a survival clause, since neither Barbara nor Ben’s children survived him by 30 days, the estate is only probated once, when it passes to his grandchildren. Ben can truly rest in peace.

Save Money with a Virtual Commissioner of Oath in Ontario

Axess Law’s Ontario lawyers are commissioners of oaths who can witness changes to your will. Online video conferencing can be arranged 7 days a week, day or evening. Call 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto tp 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form for remote virtual appointments. Commissioners are available to meet with you in person at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s notary public and commissioner of oath services.