When thinking about the purpose of a will, many only consider the process of smoothly passing assets to their beneficiaries upon their death. But, what happens if your beneficiaries die only a few days after receiving your assets? As terrible as it sounds to even consider, you should be prepared in the case that this situation occurs. When drafting a will, you have the option to set a survivorship requirement before your beneficiaries can receive your assets. With survivorship, your beneficiaries can only inherit your assets after they have lived for a set number of days after you have passed away. There are multiple benefits to having this provision set in your will.
Purpose of Survivorship Requirements
The survivorship requirement, as mentioned before, is a period of days in which your beneficiary must survive in order to inherit your property. Let’s say you want to pass your assets to your spouse, and you set a survivorship period of 30 days. When you pass away, your spouse does not immediately get your assets. They can only receive your assets if they are alive for at least 30 days after your death. Common survivorship requirements range from 5 days all the way to 60, which means that at the end of the range, beneficiaries may be required to wait up to 2 months to access their inheritance.
Is It Necessary?
For better or worse, most states require a survivorship period. If there is no survivorship requirement listed in your will, then the court will have to enforce their own time period depending on the state. In most cases, your beneficiary will have to wait 5 days before receiving the property. Whether you are creating a will or a trust, you are most likely going to have to set a survivorship requirement. Currently, 20 states have set this as an automatic requirement. Before you set a survivorship period, make sure to check whether or not your state requires it as well as what kind of survivorship range will suit your family.
Why A Survivorship Requirement?
Imagine this – you pass some of your assets to your cousin without a survivorship period. Your cousin suddenly passes away two days after receiving your property. Where does your property go? These assets would now be distributed through your cousin’s estate plan, assuming they have one, and you would have no control over who receives what was once your property. Perhaps your property would be passed to your nephew, who you would have never chosen as a beneficiary, and you have no way of stopping it. You can also include a provision in your estate planning documents that if a beneficiary passes away, you would like to pass your property to an alternate beneficiary, such as a charitable organization or another family member. Ultimately, however, this type of confusion and legal hassle can be avoided with the installment of a survivorship requirement in your estate plan, which wouldn’t allow the assets to be transferred to said cousin in the first place.
While drafting a simple will isn’t necessarily complicated, making sure that your estate plan is prepared for any scenario after your death is a job only a professional can ensure successful completion of. If you or a loved one are looking to draft your very own estate plan with a survivorship requirement, we highly recommend seeking out a licensed estate planning attorney who can help you take the right steps in making sure your assets are seamlessly transferred upon your death.