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Understanding the difference between heirs and beneficiaries

Like most in Miami, your familiarity with estate planning terms likely comes from those stories shared by popular media. Thus, you have likely heard the terms "heir" and "beneficiary" used somewhat interchangeably. Yet we here at The Law Offices of Frye and Vazquez, P.L. may caution you from forming opinions on estate planning topics without first consulting with an expert. Even simple misunderstandings between the true meanings of terms could potentially affect your interest in estate matters that you fell you should be a party to.

When defining the words "heir" and "beneficiary," it is important to know that, at least according to the Florida Probate Code, there are times when they may mean the same thing, and still other times when they do not. By definition, you are an heir if you are entitled to family member's property through the terms of intestate succession. For example, if your spouse were to die without having created a will, you would still legally be entitled to either all of at least half of his or her assets according to state law.

In a case of intestate succession, if you are an heir, then you are also considered to be a beneficiary. The same is not true for a testate estate. You are only a beneficiary in such a case if the will or trust detailing the dispersal of the decedent's property designates you as so. As you may be an heir to your parents, you may also automatically consider yourself to be a beneficiary to their assets. However, if they omit any mention of you in their estate planning documents, you may have no legal claim to any of their property.

You can find out more about the terms associated with estate administration by continuing to browse through our site. 

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