When are siblings considered beneficiaries?

My ex-husband was killed in a car accident and has a daughter. His sister was the administratrix over his estate because our daughter was under 18. We had to go to court for the insurance settlement. Instead of the daughter getting the total, we were told that his sisters were his beneficiaries also.

Everything that I have read, from my understanding, is that if there is no spouse that their children are the only ones who are entitled to anything.

Asked on August 31, 2017 under Estate Planning, West Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Unless there was no will, then when there is no spouse but there are children, the children should inherit everything in your state. Under WV's rules for "intestate succession" (who gets what when there is no will), siblings only inherit if no spouse, descendents (e.g. children), or parents.
If there is a will, however, children may be disinherited and everything left to a sibling or anyone else the decedent wanted.
More importantly, though, you indicate that you were going to court for an "insurance settlement": what insurance? If his life insurance, it would go to whomever he indicated on the policy--so he could have made his sisters beneficiaries as well as his children, and that would be legal. People may designate anyone they choose as insurance beneficiaries.
If you are talking about a settlement offered by the insurer of a car which hit him, then the sisters should not be the beneficiaries unless he in fact supported him: if they were dependent on him, then as dependents, may have been entitled to part of any "wrongful death" or similar award. 
Also, sometimes fiduciaries (trustees, executors, adminstrators or personal representatives) are entitled to  compensation for their work/time, so it is possible that the administratrix sister was receiving some compensation that basis.


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