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Beneficiaries and heirs aren’t the same thing

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2020 | Estate Planning

Heirs tend to line up when a testator, or will writer, dies. They do so because they want to be first in line to receive what they expect has been left to them in their loved one’s will. Is that necessary though?

Some legal analysts say that potential heirs don’t need to line up as the executor of a testator’s estate will reach out to them if there are any items left behind to them. Heirs also don’t have to line up because testators may have identified beneficiaries to receive their possessions instead.

Many individuals use the words heir and beneficiary interchangeably, but should they be used that way?

A beneficiary can be either an organization or an individual that’s designated in a testator’s will or trust documents to receive either property or money. Any entity named in a will is referred to as a beneficiary.

Heirs are generally blood relatives of someone who had died. State intestate succession laws spell out what should happen with a decedent’s property should they die without a will. Estate assets generally are passed down to heirs starting with a testator’s closest next of kin. A person may designate which heirs receive their different possessions and document their wishes in their will.

An heir doesn’t have any more rights to property than a beneficiary does. The existence (or lack) of a will or trust may affect how assets get distributed though. Individuals can be both beneficiaries and heirs. There are many instances in which heirs aren’t beneficiaries though. An estate planning attorney in Frederick can help you draft your legal documents so that they adequately reflect your final wishes and are valid under Maryland law.