Can you explain the difference between a beneficiary and an heir?

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Can you explain the difference between a beneficiary and an heir?

My father died and I was supposed to be his beneficiary but now I’m told that I’m an heir.

Asked on March 4, 2018 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

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

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

When referring to a deceased person's assets, a beneficiary is someone who is to receive an inheritance under the terms of an Will. However, if there is no Will, then the person who inherits an estate (under "intestacy" laws) is called an "heir". Since your father apparently had no Will, you and any siblings and/or his surviving wife if any, are now his heirs.


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