Who Inherits If The Beneficiary Of A Will Dies?


If you are serving as the executor of an estate, it is your responsibility to ensure that all of the beneficiaries receive their inheritances. However, if one or more of the beneficiaries has passed away before you could distribute the assets, you have to determine who is the new beneficiary. To help you identify who is the beneficiary, it is important to know the special rules that apply to this situation.

Survivorship Period

Depending on the state in which you live, it is possible that a survivorship period requirement exists. The requirement states that a beneficiary must live a certain period of time beyond the maker of the will. Some will makers opt to include a survivorship period requirement on their own.

In the event that there is not a requirement, the inheritance would go to the beneficiary's estate regardless of how long he or she lived. For instance, if the beneficiary died within hours of the death of the will maker and there was no survivorship period requirement, the inheritance would be turned over to the beneficiary's estate.

Alternate Beneficiary

In the event that the beneficiary did not survive long enough to meet the requirement established by law or the will, the inheritance would go to any alternate who is listed.

However, if there is no alternate listed, state law will need to be followed. Each state has laws listing the order of beneficiaries. For instance, if a spouse was the beneficiary and he or she died before meeting the survivorship period requirement, state law might require that the children be considered the alternate if none is listed.

Group Inheritance

It is not uncommon for a group inheritance to be named in a will. Unfortunately, leaving assets to a group can complicate matters when one or more people in the group die before the assets are distributed. How the executor proceeds depends largely on the wording of the will.

If the inheritance is left to a group, such as the surviving cousins, the living members of the group would split the inheritance if one or more people die. However, if each group member is named as individual heirs, a deceased group member's share would go to his or her estate.

An estate planning attorney can help clear up some of the confusion with dealing with a deceased heir and help ensure that everyone receives the inheritance that he or she is owed. For more information, contact Hamilton Michaelson & Hilty LLP or a similar firm.


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