A well-drawn will contains a common disaster clause to establish contingent beneficiaries if both husband and wife die within a stated period of time. Without such a clause, if both husband and wife die with no way to determine who died first, their individual property is disposed of as if they had died a widow and widower. Property owned jointly is divided proportionately among the heirs of the joint owners; the husband’s heirs receive one-half, the wife’s heirs one-half.

Couples of modest means frequently name each other as sole beneficiary, and each has an independent will. Such an arrangement avoids many complications for the survivor when there are minor children.