Who Can Be a Beneficiary in a Will?

March 6, 2024
Our Media Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Guide Clients Through the Beneficiary Designation Process

People who create wills for the first time typically have a long list of questions that need answering. One of the first is arguably the most important: Who can be a beneficiary in a will? The answer is fairly straightforward, but it often leads to other questions that must also be addressed.

When someone does not have a beneficiary designation in their will, the assets get distributed by the state’s intestacy laws. That means your wishes might not be carried out as you may have hoped. Designating a beneficiary allows you to choose where the assets will go and helps avoid probate. That is a legal process of distributing a deceased person’s assets; it can be long and expensive.

Most people can be named beneficiaries, but state laws and benefit providers might restrict that. That is why it is important to understand both before choosing a beneficiary. As a guideline, beneficiaries can be a person, several people, a trust, your estate, or a charity.

Once your will gets presented to the clerk of the court, getting the assets to the beneficiaries begins. The two witnesses who signed your will must verify the authenticity through an affidavit, and your named executor must take an oath to follow the instructions in the will.

Then, the assets described in the will are collected, and an inventory is taken. Any outstanding debts are paid before asset distribution to the named beneficiaries. If your beneficiaries agree that the assets were received correctly, probate can be closed once the documentation is completed.

Who Should Be a Beneficiary?

Most of the time, people name immediate family members as beneficiaries. It is recommended to choose beneficiaries who will be impacted financially by your loss; once the assets are distributed, they may decide to give money to help other family members.

It is legal to name children under 18 as a primary or contingent beneficiary. However, the proceeds might be sent to their legal guardian if they pass away before they reach that age.

Designating a Trust or Charity as a Beneficiary

Naming a trust as a beneficiary solves issues like these because it helps you control how the assets are distributed. When you pass away, the assets transfer to the trust; the distributions are paid out from the trust to your beneficiaries, following your instructions. An executor must also be designated and will be responsible for the distributions.

Many of our clients choose charities, and other worthy organizations are beneficiaries. You can designate a portion of your assets to charity, with the remaining amount to family members. The choice is up to you if the percentages add up to 100 percent.

Our Media Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Guide Clients Through the Beneficiary Designation Process

If you need legal guidance with estate planning, look no further than our skilled Media estate lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Call us at 610-565-3701 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.