Inheritance is the legal passing of assets, debts, and obligations to another party upon the death of an individual.

It must be noted that inheritance law can differ wildly in different countries.

When a person is entitled to receive ownership of property belonging someone who has died, this person is described as a heir and subject to the laws of the state regarding inheritance.

If the deceased has left no legal will, his or her estate will be distributed according to Intestate law.

The priorities could be as follows:

  1. Spouse, children
  2. Parents
  3. Siblings
  4. Grandparents
  5. Aunts and uncles
  6. If there is no claim, the government will be entitled to the estate

Escheatment would commence when there are not heirs to the property.

There are a lot more details that go into intestate law. Do consult the advice of a lawyer when in doubt.

Heirs vs beneficiaries

When personal property is distributed via instructions contained in a will, the receivers are termed as beneficiaries.

When a beneficiary receivers real property, he or she is specifically referred to as a devisee.

It must be noted that there is a distinct difference between assets distributed via inheritance and by being a beneficiary.

A heir is someone who is entitled to receive assets left behind by a deceased such as the children of one who has died. A beneficiary is someone who would receive assets as stated in a will.

It can be said that a heir is a beneficiary, but a beneficiary is not necessarily a heir.

In addition that that, beneficiaries might be subject to higher taxes than heirs for the assets received.

In certain circumstances, a person who has created a legal will might outlive a beneficiary but made no amendments to the will.

This can occur for many reasons such as:

  • The testator was incapable of amending the will with a sound mind
  • The testator has no knowledge of the death of the beneficiary
  • The testator forget that the particular person was listed as a beneficiary
  • etc

Should a beneficiary die before a testator, the willed gifts that were originally meant for him or her would lapse. And the gifts would revert to the testator’s estate as residual property and be distributed in accordance to intestate law unless an alternative beneficiary has been expressly listed.

The gifts does not go to the descendants of the deceased beneficiary.

However, should a beneficiary survive a testator, which means that he or she is alive when the testator died, then he or she would be entitled to the gifts stated in the will even if he or she dies during the probate process.

This is because the beneficiary would be entitled to the gifts stated in a will when the testator dies, even if the formal process of accepting the gifts and transferring of ownership has not been completed in the probate process.

The gifts would then become part of the estate of the beneficiary and be distributed through the intestate succession act.

When in doubt about these issues, it is always best to consult the advice of a lawyer.




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