Probate administration is the rigorous and often time-consuming process of dissolving an estate. While probate can be emotionally exhausting, it is often a relatively straightforward affair. However, the disbursement of inheritances could be significantly disrupted if a named beneficiary or heir passes away before probate is complete.
What Happens When a Beneficiary Passes Away Before Receiving an Inheritance
If the heir to an estate passes away before receiving their inheritance, then the gifted assets will remain with the heir's own probate estate.
Under ordinary circumstances, a living testator could simply amend or re-write their will to reflect the beneficiary’s death. However, complications could arise if the testator is already deceased. But if the heirs survives the testator, even for a day, the heir's own inheritance now must be paid to the heir's probate estate for distribution under the terms thereof.
The Perils of Probate for Payable-on-Death Accounts (PODs)
Certain assets—such as bank accounts, investment retirement accounts, and 401(k)s—are typically excluded from probate if and when they include a so-called “beneficiary designation.” If an account has a beneficiary designation, the account’s assets are transferrable to the named heir upon the original account holder’s death.
Unfortunately, these otherwise non-probatable assets could be subject to probate administration if the beneficiary dies before probate administration is complete. In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to a favored heir losing their rights to an inheritance, with the court instead ordering that the assets be distributed in accordance with the state’s intestate succession law.
Contact an Attorney Today
An intestate succession could endanger the decedent’s legacy and deprive worthy heirs of their inheritance. If you, or a loved one, are struggling to make sense of Florida’s complicated probate proceedings, please send DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, PA, a message online or call us at 727-777-6842 to schedule your initial consultation.