Deceased Beneficiaries And Simultaneous Deaths In Probate Cases
You’ve got the perfect estate plan. Everything has been left to the people you want to leave your property to, and all documents have been drafted and filed. And then it happens—shortly after you pass, one of your beneficiaries passes away—before the court probate period can be completed. What happens then?
Because probate can take time in certain cases, it can occur that someone who was supposed to inherit property can no longer do so because he or she passes away shortly afterwards, or while the probate process is still underway.
In many cases, the will includes language to manage situations such as this, as well as a specified period of time, called a “survivorship period.” If someone dies before the survivorship period, the property is not inherited. The will may provide for alternative arrangements, or it may remain silent.
Estates as Beneficiaries
If there is no survivorship period in the will, then the estate of the beneficiary will inherit the property. Note that Florida does not have a statutory survivorship period. Unlike some states, in Florida, a survivorship period must be written into the will itself
Survivorship Clauses Are Important
Let’s say that you want your property to go to your brother. If it doesn’t go to your brother (for example, if he predeceases you), you want it to go to charity. But your brother dies within days after you. Now, his estate will inherit your property and be left to whomever he designated as beneficiaries in his estate.
Your alternative arrangement—the charity—will never see your property.
A survivorship requirement in your estate documents can avoid this problem. If your brother passes away soon after you do, he and his estate don’t get the property, but your chosen alternate (the charity) will.
This is why a survivorship can be important and beneficial in estate planning and probate.
There are times when it can be difficult to tell whether a beneficiary passed away after or before someone else. For example, there are situations where deaths occur simultaneously, such as in a plane crash.
In that case, although it may seem confusing, the estates are probated as if the other person survived—in other words, both estates would be probated, and the estate of the other person would be the beneficiary.
With real property, if the two who passed simultaneously were married, the property would be presumed to be owned as tenants by the entirety, and thus, each person’s estate would inherit half of the property.
But again, this is only where the order of deaths cannot be determined and they are presumed to have occurred at the same time.
We want to help you draft estate documents that avoid probate, or make the probate process easier for you. Contact the Tampa probate lawyers at the Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A. today.