What to Know About Being a Beneficiary

Legal Article

What to Know About Being a Beneficiary

A “beneficiary” refers to someone identified in a last will and testament or trust that will receive a distribution of all or a part of an Estate. Similarly, an “heir” is a person set to receive all or a part of the estate. This distinction occurs if the benefactor did not create a last will and testament or trust. There are specific rights attached to beneficiaries and heirs, so understanding which classification you fall under is important. Finally, being an heir or beneficiary does not automatically mean that you will receive any portion of the Estate. Not that the general terms are laid out, we will proceed by examining what to know about being a beneficiary.

What if a child of the deceased is not mentioned in the Will?

When a child of a testator or grantor is not in a Will, the court assumes that the omission is intentional. One instance where this rule does not apply is if the child is born after the making of a will by a parent who did not add a provision for the child. In this case, the child will receive the same share in the estate that they would have received if the testator had died without a will.

What happens to a bequest to someone in a Will if they die before the Decedent?

The question posed above hinges almost entirely on if the deceased decedent is of Lineal nature. Upon the death of a beneficiary, a lineal decedent would receive the property, share, or beneficial interest that would have gone to that beneficiary. For example, someone passes away and leaves equal shares of their estate to their two brothers.   However, one of the brothers who was a beneficiary died and left behind a child. Since the child is a lineal descendant, this person would step into his father’s shoes and receive half of the Estate. However, if the beneficiary that died had no children yet still assigned their estate to nieces or nephews, these persons would be considered a “collateral heir”. As such, they will not receive any portion of the estate and the sole surviving brother receives the entire estate. This is one of the most important things to know when considering what to know about being a beneficiary.

Is it Possible To Receive a Different Amount Than What is Provided in the Will?

Yes, the beneficiaries of an estate may agree among themselves to alter the interests to which they receive. For example, if your grandfather dies and did not create a will or trust, the heirs can agree in writing that the estate is divided into non-equal shares.

Can a lifetime gift decrease the amount a beneficiary could receive?

A lifetime gift can reduce the amount of inheritance. However, it can only do so if the benefactor made this distinction as a credit against the beneficiary’s inheritance. In this situation, the lifetime gift is an advancement. For example, a benefactor gifts $20,000 to you with the understanding that the gift is an advancement. Ten years later the benefactor dies and their Estate equals $460,000. The $20,000 advancement goes against the Estate and since there are 4 children, each one would receive $120,000. However, since you received a $20,000 advance, you would only receive $100,000. Finally, if the amount of advancement exceeds your share of the Estate, you do not have to refund any part of the advancement.

When could a beneficiary not receive any portion of an Estate?

A beneficiary could be denied a portion of the Estate if the value of the estate is less than $100,000. In a case where the estate is less than this amount, the Court gives the estate to a surviving spouse. However, this could only occur if the beneficiaries are not minor children.  

Contact our DC Law Office for More Information

For more than 20 years, Antonoplos & Associates has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship, and real estate matters. We represent clients throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia

For more information on what to know about being a beneficiary, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.