Double Legacies – A Trap to Avoid

June 20, 2008 Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, Wills Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

Spouses commonly execute virtually identical Wills, called “mutual wills”, on the assumption that each will give the same gifts on death out of the same “family” pool of property.  Oftentimes the residue of the estate of the first spouse to die is left to the surviving spouse, as long as he or she lives at least 30 days after the death.


A problem can arise if both Wills provide for the same gifts in case of simultaneous death or death within 30 days.  If both spouses do in fact die within 30 days of each other then an unintended double legacy could result. 


The following wording might cause exactly that problem in a mutual will scenario (and perhaps should be avoided or redrafted):


1.           I direct my estate trustee to pay or transfer the residue of my estate to my said Husband ( Wife) if he (she) survives me by at least thirty days. 


2.           If my said Husband (Wife) dies before me or fails to survive me by at least thirty days, then I direct my estate trustee to pay $100,000.00 to my daughter Sue and pay or transfer the residue to my son Joe.

If both spouses have that wording in their wills, and both die within 30 days of each other, Sue might get two gifts of $100,000 for a total of $200,000 at Joe’s expense, even though only one $100,000 gift was intended.  Joe would not be a happy beneficiary.

Thanks for reading.

Sean Graham

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