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Who gets how much is determined by each state`s respective inheritance laws, which are plans for how an estate is divided when a person dies without a valid will. It is the responsibility of the probate court to ensure that the net assets of the estate are transferred to persons legally entitled to do so. In general, the heirs of the deceased are the surviving spouse and children, including all biological and adopted children of the deceased. If someone dies without a will, the probate court appoints an administrator to distribute the assets and close the estate. Usually, this person is the closest relative, such as a spouse or child. Upon receipt of a comfort letter (called a “will letter” in the case of wills), the administrator repays the deceased`s debts and completes the paperwork to transfer the assets in accordance with the state`s intestate succession laws. If there is more than one heir who has the same relationship with the testator, for example if there are two siblings, these people usually share the estate equally. The portion of a deceased person`s estate that is bequeathed to an heir is called an inheritance. This can include money, stocks, bonds, real estate, and other personal property such as cars, furniture, antiques, artwork, and jewelry. Persons with the right to inherit have the right to inherit.

It is axiomatic. But as with so many things in the law, there are countless related rights that heirs must protect themselves. The most fundamental right is that they have a fiduciary duty on the part of the executor, administrator or trustee, and that is the highest known duty under the law. The trustee must take appropriate measures to protect the heirs and fulfill the obligations imposed on him. When looking at an heir versus a beneficiary, it is important to understand that there are distinct differences between the two terms. At a high level, the main difference is that an heir is a descendant or close relative equivalent to an inheritance if you don`t set up your estate plans correctly. In contrast, a beneficiary is someone you name in an official legal document as the recipient of your property after your death. If you don`t properly name the beneficiaries, it can lead to an intestate inheritance law, rather than your wishes, dictating who gets what from your estate. It is important for heirs to understand that the probate process is designed to ensure that all creditors are paid, that all taxes are paid, and that the myriad duties and rights of the deceased are protected and respected. This requires time and effort on the part of the trustee and/or executor.

This is not an easy task, and if the deceased owned or operated a business, the task becomes more complex and places a significant burden on the trustee. Legally adopted children are considered heirs under the Next of Kin Acts, which make no distinction between biological and adopted relationships. So if the deceased has an adopted child and a biological child, they are treated exactly the same. If the deceased was adopted into a family, the adoptive members of the family are considered the next of kin, as if they were biologically related. The courts have clarified the rights that heirs normally have. The assets are initially transferred to a living spouse and/or direct descendants (biological and adopted children and/or grandchildren). If they are not alive, then to their parents, and if they are not alive, to the descendants of grandparents (aunts, uncles and cousins). When all the heirs have died, the assets of the estate pass to the State, which is called escheat. In most cases, the legal heirs of a deceased person are determined by the intestate inheritance laws of the state in which he or she lived at the time of death. The intestate inheritance laws of another State might apply if she owned immovable or tangible property there. A beneficiary does not need to be an heir: a friend, long-term partner, son-in-law or charity can be a beneficiary.

Even a pet can be a beneficiary! And while heirs can be beneficiaries, it`s not always clear that they will inherit. Take, for example, parents who leave most of their estate to romantic partners, rather than their living children or grandparents who eliminate lost grandchildren from their will. “He raised me as his.” TRUTH: Unless you were legally adopted or named in the will, you do not have the right to inherit the estate. Succession: This is the public judicial procedure in which the property of a deceased person is distributed to the designated heirs under judicial supervision. An executor (if there is a will) or administrator (if they die without a will) is appointed by the court, and this executor is required to register all assets, pay all creditors, pay all taxes and, with court approval, prepare official accounting and then pay the rest to the specified heirs. If there is a will, the will will indicate the heirs. If there is no will, the law determines who inherits what. The executor or administrator receives a fee for his or her services, usually set out in a schedule published by the court, and receives extraordinary fees when certain services are required, such as the initiation of litigation or the sale of real property.

The executor or administrator owes a fiduciary duty to the heirs and is personally liable for the non-performance. If a deceased person did not have children or a will, the surviving spouse receives all separate assets from the deceased. If the deceased had children and did not have a will, the children of the deceased (or their heirs) receive 75% of the separate property and the surviving spouse 25%. The terms of a will can change the distribution of a deceased`s separate property. The next of kin may need an affidavit from next of kin, a notarized document that identifies the heirs to the estate. Depending on the jurisdiction, this affidavit may be sufficient to legally transfer certain types of property to the heir. However, real estate usually requires additional documents to transfer ownership. The beneficiaries of the will or trust are entitled to an executor or trustee who performs the tasks fully, honestly and without preference. An executor may not act in a way that harms the estate or favours one beneficiary over another, behaves dishonestly or illegally, or fails to comply with legal obligations.

Another term, often misused, is “next of kin.” The next of kin is the next living relative of the deceased. A number of States have expanded this term to include a spouse as well. The role of the next of kin is crucial, especially when end-of-life or medical decisions are necessary for people who cannot make or communicate decisions for themselves. In such cases, the absence of legal documents such as a power of attorney for health may require that the next of kin be contacted and asked to make certain decisions. The power of the next of kin may be limited, but it is not uncommon for the next of kin to be considered when legal action against someone becomes necessary. [Important: Traditionally, Jewish, Christian and Islamic laws each have their own customs with respect to heirs.] Now that you know the different terms, it`s important to have a plan for yourself and use the terms in the right legal context to make sure your plans and desires are taken into account. Many do-it-yourself estate and escrow documents don`t accurately define and differentiate between different groups, and if you`re not aware of the differences, you might think you`re protecting someone when you`re not. His grandchildren would only be legal successors if their parents are deceased, as a parent`s share usually passes to their child and not to their siblings – the other children of the deceased. This legal process is known by the legal term “per stirpes”, which literally means “by rooting”. The inheritance is passed on to the next generation. They do not move “laterally” to others of the same generation.

A beneficiary is a person who is legally designated (by the donor or owner) to receive property from an estate. It`s important to understand the role a beneficiary plays in your estate plan and the rights they have to the assets or real estate they want to inherit. Deciding who to nominate can often seem a bit overwhelming, but our guide can help you determine who should be your beneficiary. And unlike heirs who inherit assets based on prescribed actions determined by a state`s policies, beneficiaries receive amounts determined by the deceased. There may also be more than one primary beneficiary and more than one secondary or conditional beneficiary if the primary beneficiary(ies) are deceased.