Bishop & Sewell

Why your will needs a “Titanic” (Tragedy) clause to safeguard your estate

What is a tragedy clause?

We don’t like to think about the worst-case scenarios, but as the old adage goes ‘Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst’. A tragedy clause (also known as a ‘long stop provision’ or ‘disaster clause’) is a clause that can be written into your Will to provide for a disaster scenario – meaning that if you and your named beneficiaries were to die at the same time or within close proximity of each other, your wishes would be clear about the distribution of your Estate.

For example, a typical Will usually states that if an individual dies, his or her estate will pass to the spouse, and if the spouse does not survive, then the estate will pass to the children or to their heirs. For that reason, including a tragedy clause acts as a catch-all provision and contingency plan if all immediate members of the family were to die together in an accident.

As several accidents in the headlines have highlighted, it is not unheard of for loved ones to die in close proximity; Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, while business mogul Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman Dawood, died together (along with three others) in the OceanGate titan submersible implosion on 18 June 2023.

What happens without a tragedy clause?

In the absence of a tragedy clause, the Estate would be distributed as though the testator had died without a valid Will in place (dying intestate).

In this scenario, inheritance laws called the Intestacy Rules would be triggered. If there were no surviving relatives, then everything would pass to the Crown.

The hope is that a tragedy clause is never put into use, but it is still wise to make sure that your Will provides for all contingencies so that your Estate will pass according to your intentions. It can also be a sensible inclusion for families with young children and provides peace of mind that there is an alternative if tragedy does strike.

A disaster clause effectively makes sure that the Will covers all possible scenarios, which can only be a wise move in a world where contentious probate claims are on the rise.


This article has been prepared by our Litigation and Private Client teams.

If you have questions surrounding your estate, or are in need of advice or assistance on any of the legal issues mentioned in this article, please contact our Private Client or Litigation teams directly: 

Alternatively, you can telephone: 020 7091 2706. 

The above is accurate as at 12 February 2024. The information above may be subject to change.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

David Little

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