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What Happens Following the Death of a Beneficiary of a Will

Fri, Dec 17, 2021 at 10:55AM

What Happens Following the Death of a Beneficiary of a Will

Occasionally a will created by someone who has passed on may indicate a beneficiary who has already died. This can occur if the will has not been updated recently or if the beneficiary has passed soon after the person who left the will. 

In these cases, the next beneficiary must be determined. Sometimes the will itself will indicate that person or group of people; other times, state law will determine the new inheritor. 

How Can a Daytona Beach Wills Lawyer Help Me?

Attorneys in Daytona Beach, FL, can assist you with understanding a will left by someone who has recently passed on. If the will indicates that a beneficiary will inherit the person’s estate, but that beneficiary has also died, questions often arise around who will rightfully inherit the estate.

Oftentimes, wills contain a clause that beneficiaries cannot inherit unless they live past a survivorship period. This period often ranges from 5 to 60 days. If the will itself does not impose a survivorship requirement, state law may. 

If state law does not impose a survivorship requirement, then a beneficiary who lives just a short while past the testator (the person who leaves the will) is entitled to the full inheritance. The beneficiary’s estate will then pass down the inheritance to their own heir. 

Navigating through understanding a will can be difficult, especially during a time already fraught with grief for a loved one. It’s important to reach out to a wills lawyer for guidance throughout the inheritance process. They will advise you and potentially speed up the process.

Alternate Beneficiaries Named in the Will

If the will names alternate beneficiaries, then the guidance is clear: The inheritance will pass down to them. 

However, if no alternates are named, the issue becomes a question decided by state law and how the will is written. The inheritance may then go to the following people:

  • The residuary beneficiary named in the will
  • The primary beneficiary’s descendants under the state’s anti-lapse law
  • The deceased person’s heirs under state law, as if there were no will

Below is a more detailed description.

Residuary Beneficiary

A will might state that lapsed gifts become part of the residuary estate (everything that isn't left to a named beneficiary). If this is the case, the gift would be given to the residuary beneficiary.

Beneficiary’s Descendants

Every state has an "anti-lapse" law, which tries to guess what the testator would have wanted when a will gifted to a relative fails. Unless the will has named an alternate beneficiary, anti-lapse laws usually give property to the deceased beneficiary’s heirs. 

These laws will normally never apply to a potential beneficiary who isn’t related by blood to the will-maker. 

The Testator’s Heirs

If neither the residuary beneficiary nor anti-lapse statutes apply, the estate will pass under intestate succession laws as if no will existed. 

Wrapping Up

If a loved one has recently passed, it can be difficult to know how to handle the administration of their estate. A Daytona Beach wills lawyer can assist you with understanding your relative’s will and who is entitled to their estate.

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