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Heritage Tree LogoWhat Will Happen to a Will or Trust if a Beneficiary Dies in Pennsylvania?

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Unfortunately, it is hard to plan for when a beneficiary passes away. However, Pennsylvania law does provide individuals in this situation with options. Continue reading and reach out to our Pennsylvania estate planning attorneys today to learn more about how our attorneys can help you.

What is a beneficiary’s role in an estate plan in Pennsylvania?

When a testator of an estate plan chooses a beneficiary, they are essentially selecting that individual to receive their inheritance in the event that they pass away. It is also important to note that beneficiaries play a big role in an estate plan. In fact, most people create an estate plan because they would like to appoint loved ones to receive their assets once they are no longer alive.

A comprehensive estate plan typically has several different types of beneficiaries. These are known as primary beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries. Furthermore, not all beneficiaries have to be individuals, or classes of individuals, for instance, children or grandchildren. Instead, a person can choose their beneficiary to be an organization or several.

A primary beneficiary is an individual or organization that inherits first from a trust or a will. On the flip side, a contingent beneficiary is a person or organization to inherit if the primary beneficiary is predeceased. In some circumstances, the contingent beneficiary is referred to as the “second in line” beneficiary.

If you would like to learn more about the role of a beneficiary, do not wait to reach out to one of our skilled estate planning attorneys.

What will happen to a will or trust once a beneficiary dies?

If a beneficiary of a trust or will passes away, the owner of the estate plan will have to go back and revise their estate plan. If the will includes alternate beneficiaries, then the alternate gets the inheritances. If the will does not name an alternate, or the alternate has also passed away, you will have something called a “lapsed” or “failed” gift. Depending on Pennsylvania law and how the will is produced, the property will go to either:

  • The residuary beneficiary named in the will
  • The primary beneficiary’s descendants, under your state’s “anti-lapse” law, or
  • The deceased person’s heirs under state law, as if there were no will.

If you would like to learn more about your options if a beneficiary passes away, it is in your best interest to reach out to Heritage Elder Law and Estate Planning, LLC. today.


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