What happens to a beneficiary’s inheritance if they die?

If the benficiary of a piece of property dies before the person who willed the propoerty to them. What happens to the property?

Asked on October 10, 2017 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania


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

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

When a beneficiary predeceases the "testator" (i.e. the person who made the Will), there are several potential possibilities regarding the distribution of the estate. It all depends on how the Will is the worded, in what state it is being probated, and who the dead beneficiary was. For example, the gift may "lapse" which means that it goes back into the estate to be distributed according to the residuary clause of the Will (that having been said, most states have enacted "anti-lapse" laws to prevent this). Or a contingent beneficiary may be named who will then receive the bequest in the event that a primary beneficiary cannot inherit. If the dead beneficiary was a child of the testator, then their share may in turn go the their children (i.e. the testor's grandchildren) or it may just be split among the testator's surviving children. Without reviewing the specific Will, it's hard to say exactly what will happen. At this point, you can consult directly with a local probate attorney; they can best advise you further.

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