What Happens if a Will’s Beneficiary has Died?

What Happens if a Will’s Beneficiary has Died?

People who create wills typically designate beneficiaries whom they want to receive certain assets. But if the beneficiary has already died, there could be some complications when it comes to the distribution of assets.

First, the executor of the will should check the document for alternate beneficiaries, often referred to as contingent beneficiaries. If the will names alternates, then it is clear who will get the property in question in the primary beneficiary’s absence.

If there is no alternate beneficiary named in the will, or if the alternate has also died, then there are several potential next steps. The property could go to:

  • A residuary beneficiary designated in the will
  • The descendants of the primary beneficiary (according to anti-lapse laws)
  • The deceased person’s heirs, as if the person had died intestate (without a will)

Every state except Louisiana has anti-lapse laws in place, so it’s possible your property could be passed to your primary beneficiary’s descendants, unless you have other conditions in place. As is the case in Florida, these laws usually only apply to estates if the deceased beneficiary was the grandparent of the will-maker (or a direct descendant of a grandparent) and left children of his or her own behind.

These laws almost never apply to beneficiaries not related by blood to the person who made the will, which means they do not apply to spouses. Therefore, if the will-maker left everything to his or her spouse without an alternate beneficiary and the spouse is deceased as well, the estate could go through intestate succession processes.

To learn more about how the alternate beneficiary process works, speak with a trusted Tampa estate planning lawyer at BaumannKangas Estate Law.