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Home > Blog > Probate > What Happens When Someone Dies Before They Can Inherit?

What Happens When Someone Dies Before They Can Inherit?


When we do our estate plan, we often anticipate that those in our estate plan—those who are getting things that we leave to them-will be alive to receive those inheritances. But often it happens that they are not; they pass before we do.

Then there is the situation where two people pass at the same time, and one is supposed to be a beneficiary of the other.

These two situations cause unique problems in probating an estate, and when making an estate plan, it is important to understand how Florida handles the problem of simultaneous deaths, or deceased beneficiaries.

The Survivorship Clause

One thing that can be used in a will or other estate documents, is what is known as a survivorship clause. This is a clause that requires that someone stay alive for a given period of time after your death, in order to inherit what he or she is supposed to inherit in the will. If they do not, the property will go to whomever else that you may designate.

Why have a survivorship clause? Simply because if you leave property to someone, you expect that he or she will enjoy, profit from, or use what you are leaving to them. If they can’t because of a premature death, then someone else should.

A Practical Example

Let’s imagine you leave property in your will to your sister. But your sister dies at the same time as you do, or even, just a week after you do. Now you have a problem: Your sister owns what you left to her in your will, but she never got to use it or enjoy it. Instead, what you left to her becomes part of her estate, and is left to whomever she designated in her estate plan to inherit from her.

In some states, there is a survivorship period that is established in the law, but Florida doesn’t have this. In Florida, you must include the survivorship period, if you want to avoid this problem from happening. That also means that if your will was made in a different state, and the will has no survivorship clause but there is one under that state’s laws, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to see whether one needs to be included, as Florida may not recognize the law in the state where the will was made.

Dying at the Same Time

Often, two people may die at the exact same time, such as in a single accident. When that happens, the law presumes that each person predeceased the other. That means that the estate of one deceased person is a beneficiary of the estate of the other person.

This sounds confusing but it really is not. If Husband and Wife both pass, the Husband’s beneficiaries will inherit whatever the Wife left to the husband, and the wife’s beneficiaries would inherit whatever Husband left to the Wife.

Call the West Palm Beach probate lawyers at The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray today to answer your questions about the probate process and any problems you may have probating an estate.



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