What Is The Difference Between An Heir And A Beneficiary?

by Bruce Givner on November 21, 2011

An “heir” is a person, including your surviving spouse, who is entitled to take your property, by “intestate succession”. See California Probate Code §44. “Intestate succession” refers to the rules which provide who inherits your property if you do not have a Will or Trust, or if your Will and Trust do not cover a specific situation.

California Probate law generally defines “heirs” to be your spouse; issue (children and later heirs); parents; brothers and sisters (and their issue); grandparents (and their issue); issue of a predeceased spouse; next of kin (more distant cousins); and parents of a predeceased spouse or issue of those parents. If none of those people exist, your property “escheats” to the state of California. See California Probate Code §§6401, 6401, 6402.5 and 6404.

By contrast, a “beneficiary” means the person named in your Will or Trust to receive property. In a trust, a beneficiary is someone with a present or future interest, vested or contingent. See California Probate Code §24(c).

The question that usually comes up is something like this: is my daughter-in-law going to inherit under my trust? The answer is that your daughter-in-law is not your heir. However you can name her as a beneficiary. But, unless you specifically name her as a beneficiary, she will not receive anything under your estate plan.

Whether you are a CPA, a professional, or a potential client, contact Givner & Kaye to see how we can help you make more money, save taxes and gain peace of mind over all your estate and asset protection needs. www.GivnerKaye.com (310) 207-8008

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