When a beneficiary to a will passes away after probate is opened but before the assets are distributed, the status of their inheritance will depend on the terms of the testator’s will and the state’s succession laws. In the state of Arizona, succession laws are based on the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) and Arizona Revised Statutes Title 14 (ARS 14).

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I did not meet personally with anyone from the JacksonWhite Law firm. Mr. Hodges was my contact at the firm. The entire probate process was handled through emails and USPS since I am out of state. The probate process went very smooth. The process was clearly explained, I understood my responsibility and I was kept up to date on the status. I was particularly impressed with the timeliness of email responses to my emails.read more
Diane E.
21:39 29 Jan 20
I worked with Ryan Hodges for assistance managing the probate process when my father passed away. Not only was Ryan extremely timely with all correspondence and had an excellent turnaround time on all phases of the probate process, he was also consistently available to answer any questions I had, whether through email or by phone. I strongly recommend him as a top probate/estate attorney.read more
Kelly J.
02:07 03 Jan 20
Mr. Hodges was a huge asset in helping me handle my mother-in-law's estate. Most impressive, besides his knowledge and follow through with the legal aspects of closing an estate, was his prompt and professional communication. I happily recommend Ryan Hodges at Jackson White Law.read more
Lori F.
17:07 24 Sep 19
I highly recommend Jackson White Attorneys At Law. I worked with Ryan Hodges, Attorney for nearly 2 years on a very complicated estate involving 5 states. Ryan was very responsive to all of my needs, held my hand as I struggled to deal with other states and never let me down. He answers email promptly and files documents as quickly as possible. He also directed me to a good accounting firm that handled the tax returns. I live in Kansas so working with an attorney over 1000 miles away was unsettling at the least but from day one Ryan calmed my fears and guided me effortlessly through this process. I would also like to state that the fees were appropriate and affordable.read more
T S.
01:55 06 Sep 19
Ryan Hodges was more then helpful when my Mom passed away suddenly without a will. His advice directed me to the small estate form, checked back to see if that would work for me and told me to contact him if I needed any help with the paperwork or representation. All of which gave me some peace of mind.read more
Mary K.
19:56 28 Aug 19
Ryan Hodges did an amazing job with my case. Even though I don't live in the greater Phoenix area I still used Ryan services because he came highly recommended. He set up a phone court appearance instead of having me drive 3 hours into Phoenix. In our initial consultation he laid out several different avenues that the case might go. In the end the case went in my favor.read more
Paul J.
21:11 27 Aug 19
To Whom It May Concern:Recently I was in need of legal assistance and Ryan Hodges from Jackson-White Attorney’s at law was invaluable to me. I had sought legal assistance from other sources and was told this was not worth their time. Mr. Hodges helped me through probate when a close friend died and left me as her personal representative.Mr. Hodges is what, in my mind, an attorney should be. He was there to help me through a very difficult time. There were many questions and areas I did not understand and he was always ready to help me, whether it was just a simple text, email or a phone call. He was there. Ryan Hodges is an asset to the team of Jackson-White and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to anyone in need of legal assistance.Sincerely,Dee Hutchinsonread more
Dee H.
21:36 29 Jul 19
Ryan Hodges assisted me with deciding what direction to go in the probate of my brothers will. I hope it will not get him in trouble but he advised me that the estate was small enough that we did not need a lawyer. This impressed me as another lawyer wanted $4500 for an estate under $10000! He gave me information and a link for the necessary forms. If I ever need a lawyer I will certainly contact Ryan.read more
Tom S.
13:28 15 Jun 19
I contacted Jackson White Law by email on Thursday evening, with a question. I really didn't expect an answer until Monday at the earliest, but I received an email from Ryan Hodges in response on Friday Morning! I have to say I am impressed. He answered my question thoroughly and was very helpful. He put my mind at ease and I am eternally grateful. I would recommend this law firm and Ryan to anyone seeking legal advise.read more
Elizabeth H.
05:18 01 Jun 19
I have used attorney, Ryan Hodges at Jackson White Law Firm, for various stages of my mother's trust, from beginning to end. He is an excellent attorney to work with; as he is not only professional in every way, but willing to help out at any stage of the legal process. He communicates well and offered advice and leadership to me at all times. I would recommend him to anyone looking for a superior attorney.read more
Kay E.
10:39 25 May 19
With the help of Ryan Hodges of Jackson White Law, I recently completed a very complicated probate which involved probate in two states, the Federal Government and the Canadian Government. There is no way I could have accomplished this without the constant help and guidance from Ryan. He was with me every step of the way. I hope you never have to be involved with this process, I strongly suggest you call Ryan Hodges to assist you. Great job! Thanks Ryan!read more
michael R.
20:25 09 Jun 18
Ryan Hodges is amazing! My mom is elderly and needed help sorting out the details of probate in AZ. Ryan was able to navigate through the paperwork to help my mom get the estate settled. Ryan always returned phone calls and went above and beyond when she needed help.read more
Lee V.
17:48 25 Apr 18
Ryan Hodges of Jackson White Attorneys made a long drive to meet with us as we were grieving the recent loss of our 41-year-old son. He guided us through every step of the probate process. He made each step clear to us and continued to show understanding of our situation, even though unusual complications were frequent, due to the nature of our son's former business. His kindness, knowledge, and efficiency will always be remembered and appreciated.read more
Robert & Rebecca B.
15:04 02 Apr 18

 

Does the will specifically name a beneficiary?

If the testator names a beneficiary and specifically bequeaths assets to them in the will (e.g. “the house goes to my son, John Doe”), then the bequeathed assets will become part of the beneficiary’s estate.

In this example, John Doe’s estate would receive the house, and the house would then pass to John Doe’s beneficiaries according to his will. If there isn’t a will then the estate is considered “intestate,” and the house would transfer to John Doe’s legal heirs according to the state’s intestacy laws.

This practice applies if there are multiple beneficiaries, too. If the will states that the house goes “to John Doe and Jane Doe”, then both parties would have a 50% share of the inheritance. Their 50% share would transfer to their respective estates if they pass away before the inheritance is distributed.

The notable exception to this rule would be when a testator stipulates in their will that the beneficiary must be alive to receive their inheritance (e.g. “the house goes to my son, John Doe, if he is living”). In this case, the beneficiary’s estate would not be entitled to the inheritance. Instead, the inheritance would pass to the contingent beneficiary listed in the will.

In the absence of a contingent beneficiary, the inheritance would be subject to the state’s intestacy laws and would pass to the decedent’s legal heirs.

Does the will bequeath assets to a group?

While it’s usually best to explicitly name beneficiaries in your will, it’s common practice to bequeath assets (or the entire estate) to a group of people. Common examples include parents who leave the entire estate “to my children” or an uncle who leaves specific assets “to my nieces and nephews.”

These are known as class gifts. Generally speaking, class gifts require the implied beneficiaries to be alive in order to receive their inheritance. If one of the beneficiaries dies during probate, then his or her share of the inheritance would be reallocated to the surviving beneficiaries.

Is There a Survivorship Period?

In the state of Arizona, beneficiaries to a will must survive the testator by at least 120 hours (5 days) to receive their inheritance (ARS 14-2104). This is known as the survivorship period.

A testator has the right to impose a longer survivorship period in their will, usually anywhere from a week to several months. If a beneficiary passes away after the testator but during the survivorship period, the beneficiary statutorily predeceases the testator and stands to lose their inheritance.

What Happens when a Beneficiary Predeceases the Testator?

When a beneficiary listed in a will dies during the testator’s lifetime, it’s pretty easy to amend the will and replace the deceased beneficiary. That’s obviously not an option when a beneficiary passes away after the testator, and it can be problematic when the beneficiary statutorily predeceases the testator by dying during the survivorship period.

Rather than leaving cases like this to the mercy of intestacy laws that may not necessarily honor the wishes of the decedent, Arizona has adopted anti-lapse laws that allow the children of beneficiaries to claim the inheritance. Under the state’s anti-lapse laws, a child of the deceased beneficiary can claim their parent’s share of the testator’s inheritance if one of the following conditions are met:

  • The predeceasing beneficiary is the testator’s grandparent
  • The predeceasing beneficiary is a descendent of the testator’s grandparent
  • The predeceasing beneficiary is the testator’s stepchild

The intent of anti-lapse laws is to ensure that the testator’s assets end up where he or she would prefer. The assumption is that if the testator wanted a particular family member to receive an inheritance, it stands to reason that they’d want the intended beneficiary’s child to receive the inheritance in their place.

While this may not always be the case, it’s usually better than leaving assets to impartial intestate succession laws that may gift assets to family members who are legal heirs but whom the decedent didn’t get along with.

What Happens with Intestate Succession?

The ultimate fallback in probate is always intestate succession. If the will doesn’t offer clear direction, if the conditions for the anti-lapse remedy aren’t met, or if there isn’t a will at all, the assets in question will transfer to the decedent’s (not the beneficiary’s) legal heirs in the following priority:

  1. To the surviving spouse and any children from another partner (ARS 14-2102)
  2. Absent a surviving spouse, to the decedent’s children (ARS 14-2103)
  3. Absent a surviving spouse and children, to the decedent’s parents
  4. Absent a surviving spouse, children, and parents, to the decedent’s siblings (with representation)
  5. Absent a surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, and nieces or nephews, to the decedent’s grandparents (with representation)
  6. Absent any extended family (basically any descendants of the decedent’s grandparents), the assets will transfer to the state (ARS 14-2105)

The right to representation is similar to anti-lapse laws and allows the descendent of a legal heir to claim their deceased parent’s or grandparent’s share of the inheritance. For example, the decedent’s niece can claim her deceased parent’s share of the estate if a portion of the estate goes to the decedent’s siblings.

What to Do If You Are Entitled to a Deceased Beneficiary’s Inheritance

The executor or personal representative is the individual who has been appointed by the court to manage the decedent’s estate through probate. Since most executors are family members of the deceased with little to no experience in probate, it’s not uncommon for mistakes to be made in complicated matters such as this. If you believe you are entitled to a portion of an estate due to the death of a beneficiary, you should consult with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible.
 

Call Probate Attorney Ryan Hodges at (480)467-4365 to discuss your case today.

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