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What happens if a beneficiary or heir died first?

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2019 | Probate Litigation |

Whether the death of a loved one was sudden or expected, you have to adjust to life without him or her. As part of the process, the estate requires administration. If you are the executor of the estate, you must complete a multitude of tasks.

Distributing the assets of the estate is one of the last things to do, but one that you need to give some attention to from the beginning. Every heir and beneficiary receives notification about the death. If you discover that someone who was supposed to inherit under the will has died, you will need to figure out what happens to that individual’s share of the estate of your loved one.

Scenario 1: The deceased beneficiary inherits 100% of the estate

If your loved one left everything to the person who predeceased him or her, you act as if there never was a will. This means that the intestacy laws of Texas would determine who inherits the estate. Ordinarily, the first people who would inherit if no will existed are the surviving spouse and the decedent’s children as long as they survived him or her.

No portion of the estate would go to the closest kin of the deceased beneficiary. This happens even if it is not what your loved one wanted.

Scenario 2: The deceased beneficiary inherits a portion of the estate, per stirpes

Per stirpes translates to “by roots.” This means that if a beneficiary fails to survive the decedent, his or her share then goes to the closest relatives, usually the children. Each child would receive an equal portion of the amount of the estate the beneficiary would have received. For example, if the beneficiary was to receive 20%, and he or she had two children, then each child receives 10%.

If one of those children is deceased, that person’s children each receive an equal share of the inheritance while the other surviving child receives the full 10%. As you can see, this can get a bit convoluted.

Scenario 3: The deceased beneficiary inherits a portion of the estate

Perhaps the easiest of these scenarios is when the deceased beneficiary was to inherit a portion of the estate. In this case, that person’s portion of the estate simply goes into the “residuary” of the estate. Once you satisfy all other bequests in the will, this remainder is then divided equally among the living beneficiaries unless someone in particular is named to inherit only the residuary of the estate.