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What happens if a beneficiary dies before their inheritance?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2019 | Probate |

Creating a will requires careful consideration of your assets, your loved ones and your anticipation of the future. Contemplating your own death is not easy, but necessary if you are going to be a forward-thinker. Oftentimes, the well-being of your loved ones depends on considering your own mortality and what you have left to offer others when you reach the end of your life.

Unfortunately, many individuals who create a will, fail to make any secondary arrangements in the event their named beneficiary dies before they do. Not having a backup plan to your preferred plan is a big mistake when creating a will. A good estate plan will guide you through all the possible scenarios and help you prepare for them accordingly.

Naming alternates

Obviously, it is wise to have alternates names listed in your will should your primary heir pass away. When you choose to grant full inheritance to another named person, this is known as “by the heads” or “per capita”. Per capita goes by the heads in contrast to per stirpes “by the branches”. Giving by the branches means you equally divide an inheritance among a named set-group. For example, your inheritance is divided equally among cousins, siblings, or grandchildren (branches).

No alternate beneficiary

In the event there appears to be no alternate beneficiary listed on the will, the inheritance is considered a “failed-gift”. This means the inheritance is subject to Colorado legal statutes according to anti-lapse laws. A good estate planning attorney can discuss all the possible outcomes for this case include the following:

  • Inheritance goes to a different heir listed
  • Inheritance goes to the heir’s descendants
  • Inheritance goes to probate

Estate planning is complex, but necessary when you wish to protect your assets after death. The process is executed best when consulting with a qualified legal attorney. You need to discuss the details of the matter with someone you trust and prepare yourself for any unexpected issues, like the pre-mature death of a beneficiary.