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Is there a difference between an heir and beneficiary?

One question lots of people have is how to know if they're the heir of an estate. Sometimes, family members or friends may make people beneficiaries without letting them know. Heirs are not the same as beneficiaries, though.

Heirs will always be blood relatives. So, if your mom or dad passes away, you'll automatically be an heir to their estate. There are laws that dictate which heirs will inherit any property left after taxes and debts are paid, so there is no guarantee that every potential heir will receive an asset from the estate.

What's the difference between an heir and beneficiary?

The main difference is that you can have a beneficiary who is also an heir, but being an heir doesn't automatically make you a beneficiary. A beneficiary is specifically mentioned in a will in some cases. In other cases, they're not blood relatives but are willed assets by the decedent. It's possible to bypass heirs and will away all of your assets to a beneficiary.

Aren't heirs entitled to more benefits than beneficiaries?

Not necessarily. If there are wills or trusts in place, then those override the rights assigned by blood. When there is no will in place, then the heirs are granted portions of the assets in order. For example, your spouse would be the first heir, followed by your children, in most cases.

If you receive a note that you are an heir, it doesn't automatically mean you'll receive something from the estate. Your attorney can help you learn more about the situation and if you should be prepared for an inheritance.

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