What happens when a beneficiary dies before estate administration?

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2022 | Estate Planning

For many executors, estate administration is quite simple. They simply file paperwork with the courts, pay off creditors and follow the instructions provided by the testator. Certain people receive specific property, and it is easy for them to manage the process.

Some executors have a more challenging time fulfilling their duties. For example, an executor may need to manage an estate that leaves property to beneficiaries who died shortly after the testator. What happens during estate administration if there is a deceased beneficiary included in the paperwork?

The documents determine the outcome

Some testators plan ahead for the death of a beneficiary. If they do not, the assets they wanted that person to inherit will become part of the deceased beneficiary’s estate. They may include an alternate heir for specific assets or any property not transferred because a beneficiary dies.

For example, someone can name their spouse as their main beneficiary, but they can also name their child as an alternate party to inherit their property when they die. If their spouse dies before estate administration, then the property transfers to their child.

Other people name a beneficiary to receive the remainder of their estate beyond certain assets. If the testator instructed that all remaining assets went to a specific person, that person would likely receive what the deceased beneficiary would have inherited.

Some testators even include instructions about what to do if a beneficiary dies, such as passing the inheritance to their estate or pooling it with other remaining estate property. Occasionally, the courts may need to help with this process, especially if there is no alternate beneficiary and no one named to receive the remainder of estate assets. Learning more about common causes of probate litigation will make you feel confident whether you serve as an executor or stand to inherit from an estate.