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Understanding survivorship language in an estate plan

| Aug 5, 2019 | Firm News

Estate planning should be an essential part of getting older. However, there are numerous issues that come up with this process. Often, people make mistakes with writing a will, and one of the biggest involves using the wrong type of language. 

For example, it is important to include survivorship language in an estate plan. Married couples who grow old together need to account for the fact they do not know who will outlive whom. The testator–the person writing the will–probably wants to leave behind most of his or her assets to the spouse on the provision that he or she outlives the testator. Spouses also need to account for the fact both could die at the same time. This is why spouses need survivorship language. 

Set up a time limit

The testator may be hesitant to leave behind certain assets to a beneficiary because the beneficiary could die in a short amount of time as well. In that instance, the assets would go to whomever the beneficiary wants. Perhaps one spouse has a child from a previous relationship, but the other spouse does not want to leave everything to this other person. In this instance, the survivorship language would include provisions that would delay the transfer of the assets until a later date. This length of time could be as short as 60 days.

The spouse would still receive the assets in a relatively quick amount of time, but it would protect the assets in the event this beneficiary also passes away soon. It also helps the testator avoid the expenses of a legal team trying to figure out who should receive the assets next. The purpose of this language should not be restrictive. It is simply there to protect assets and ensure a testator gives his or her assets to the right people.