What happens if a beneficiary dies during the probate process?

If you’ve been appointed as the executor of someone’s estate, then you’ve likely already been advised by the testator, their attorney or a judge just how long it can take to adjudicate a case. The probate process can take anywhere from weeks to years to see it through here in Houston. You have a lot of responsibilities to take care of as a Texas executor. If the testator’s will is contested or a beneficiary dies, then this can extend out how long things take.

Beneficiaries generally don’t pass away during the few months that it often takes for an executor to administer an estate. If the process drags out longer, then they might.

You as the executor should generally move forward in transferring any assets that a testator left to a beneficiary even if they pass away before you have a chance to do so. Any property that is transferred over in these rare instances will generally become part of the deceased beneficiary’s estate. That heir’s executor will be responsible for dividing up any of their assets among their own beneficiaries as per their will.

There are some exceptions to this rule though. This is especially the case if the original testator doesn’t cite the name of the beneficiary in their will. It matters if there’s a specific inheritance that is earmarked in the will for that particular person as well.

Another exception to this rule may be if a testator’s will contained a “survivorship period” clause. Assets may not be able to be passed as readily to a deceased beneficiary if it does.

Problems may also arise if there’s a clause in a testator’s will that only allows for certain property to be transferred to a beneficiary while they’re still alive.

If there is a survivorship clause yet no listed time frame that must pass between the testator’s and beneficiary’s deaths, then the executor must follow the court rules in the jurisdiction where the original decedent last resided.

Administering an estate is often an already difficult feat for executors. It’s made even more complicated when out-of-the-ordinary events occur such as a contested will or untimely beneficiary death. An attorney in Houston can aid you in handling your responsibilities per Texas law.

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Law Office of Sharon C. Stodghill
952 Echo Lane, Suite 330
Houston, TX 77024

Phone: 713-464-6412
Fax: 713-827-7483
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