3/28/2017

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Living Trusts and Wills

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Heirs and Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries and heirs are those who receive property, as a gift or an inheritance, that is left by someone who has deceased.

  • An heir is a person who is designated to receive property by the laws of the state in which a property is probated when a person dies without leaving a valid will.
  • A beneficiary is a person who is entitled to receive assets that are left by will, trust, insurance policy or other arrangement.

A beneficiary may be anyone you choose to leave your asset to. You may chose just one person to inherit your estate, or there may be more than one beneficiary, each left with a specific asset or a number of assets.

Picking your choice of a beneficiary may be as easy as leaving your estate to a spouse, child, charity, bank, or anyone else. But if you are worried about the feelings and expectations of others, it may not be as easy as you might think.

It is up to you to decide who gets the assets from your estate. As you know, there may be those who are going to feel left out, slighted, and/or angry if they don't get what they want. But it's your estate, and you have the power, and the right, to distribute your assets as you wish through your will.

First, you need to designate a primary beneficiary. If you leave property to more than one person or organization, you will have more than one primary beneficiary.

An alternate beneficiary should be named in case the primary beneficiary doesn't receive the gift, due to his dying before you, or if he dies before your will has been properly probated by the court.

Other issues that may be a cause of concern are children, step children, divorce, whether your children are minors or adults, if there is a disabled child, if the beneficiaries live in another country, if and how pets are to be cared for, and whether or not there are enough assets to cover the debts you leave behind.

Any assets gained by either heirs or beneficiaries are subject to inheritance tax by state and federal taxing agencies. To make sure your loved ones or other beneficiaries get the inheritance that you want them to have, seek the help of a qualified tax attorney, or an estate attorney, when drawing up your will or family trust.

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