When someone dies, they are referred to as the decedent and those named in their will or trust are their beneficiaries. If the decedent died without a will (or what is called intestate) then those who will inherit from them are called their distributees. If a beneficiary (or a distributee) dies before the decedent, then any bequest or gift to them will either lapse or pass according to the terms of the decedent’s will. If, however, a beneficiary survives the decedent but dies shortly thereafter, the portion of the decedent’s estate that was meant to pass to the deceased beneficiary will pass to the beneficiary’s own heirs.
If the beneficiary has estate planning documents such as a will or a trust in place at their death, their share of the decedent’s estate will pass to their beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of their will or trust. If the beneficiary, whom we will refer to as “Ben”, had a will or trust that named specific beneficiaries to receive his assets upon his death, then the decedent’s assets that were intended for Ben would pass to Ben’s named beneficiaries.
If Ben did not have a will or trust, then his assets would be distributed according to the laws of intestacy in the state of New York. In New York, if a person dies without a will, their assets will generally pass to their closest living relatives, such as their spouse, children, parents, siblings, or more distant relatives. Please see our previous NY intestacy law article.
For example, Rob dies with a will that leaves his entire estate to his surviving children in equal shares. Ben, one of Rob’s children, dies six months after Rob. Ben is therefore considered a surviving child of Rob’s who is entitled to an equal portion of Rob’s estate. However, the probate process for Rob’s estate was not yet complete and Ben had not yet received his share as of the date of his death. Ben died with a will that left his entire estate to his wife, Lucy. Ben’s share of Rob’s estate now becomes part of Ben’s estate and thus Lucy, Ben’s beneficiary, becomes entitled to it despite the fact that Ben never actually possessed it.
Ben’s executor has the task of collecting his portion of Rob’s estate and seeing that it is appropriately distributed to Lucy. If, however, no fiduciary is appointed on behalf of Ben’s estate, it is up to the fiduciary of Rob’s estate to amend the Petition to probate Rob’s will to include Ben’s distributees and to put them on notice of the probate proceeding.
There is an exception to this rule found in EPTL 2-1.6 which says that if the beneficiary/distributee dies within 120 hours of the death of the decedent, then they are treated as having predeceased the original decedent.
It is important to note that the distribution of a decedent’s assets can be complex, especially when a decedent’s beneficiary dies before receiving their share of the decedent’s estate. The executor or administrator may need to work with attorneys, accountants, and other professionals to ensure that the distribution is handled properly.
It is recommended that individuals consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that their wishes are carried out effectively and efficiently. Call the Law Offices of Roman Aminov, Esq. at 347-766-2685 to speak to a knowledgeable estate attorney about competently settling your loved one’s estate.
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Creating trusts and applying for guardianship can be complex and requires careful planning and drafting. You should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who specializes in special needs planning in New York State. An attorney can help you determine which options are best suited for your situation and guide you through the process of establishing them. Special needs planning can provide peace of mind and security for both you and your child. Call the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Roman Aminov, P.C. at 347-766-2685 to discuss establishing a plan for your family.
This article is for educational purposes only - to provide you general information, not to provide specific legal advice. Use of this post does not create an attorney-client relationship and information contained herein should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed local estate attorney in NY or your state.