What is the difference between an heir and a beneficiary?


Asked on April 22, 2017 under Estate Planning, Alaska


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The terms "heir" and "beneficiary" are often mistakenly used interchangeably by many people. However, there is a difference. A beneficiary is someone who is specifically designated to inherit, such as in a Will, life insurance policy, TOD account, etc.); an "heir" is someone who has a right to receive an inheritance or the like but that right is created by law such as when someone dies without a Will or does not name someone to inherit life insurance proceeds, etc.

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