Estranged Beneficiaries When There Is A Will

Our next series of blogs will center around the concept of estranged beneficiaries. How they factor into the probate process largely depends on whether there is a will and when the will goes through probate. Today, we will look at the scenario of someone passing away with a will that is probated shortly after their passing. In future posts, we will explain how the process differs when a will is probated more than four years after the person’s passing. Although it may seem odd that a family would wait to probate a will, there are several reasons why that occurs, and we elaborate on them. 

What are Estranged Beneficiaries?

Estranged beneficiaries are people designated as beneficiaries in a will (or trust) that have become disconnected from the person who has passed away and possibly the entire family. There are many reasons why this could happen. The beneficiaries may have had a falling out resulting from a specific conflict, general or historical personal reasons, lifestyle choice, or choice of significant other to name only a few.  Although there are instances where someone chooses to include someone in their will despite the differences, there are times when the disagreement happens after the will has been created. Either the will was never updated or there was a choice to keep the person in it. If the will had been updated, they could have included a specific clause or added language expressing their desire to exclude that beneficiary. 

Though the beneficiary is estranged, they still have legal rights if they are named in the will or trust. 

How This Impacts a Will 

If the deceased left behind a valid will, and it is being probated within four years of their passing, having estranged beneficiaries won’t impact the probate process. The biggest challenge will be tied to delivering the assets. This is a prime example of the benefit of probating a will early. There are scenarios where this isn’t possible, and we will address them in the next blog. You will also learn more about the impact that estranged beneficiaries can have. 

Another important element to consider that will affect the probate process is whether you can have an independent administration instead of a dependent one. The latter requires the court’s supervision and oversight, whereas the former offers more flexibility and reduces the court’s involvement. A will should state whether you can have an independent administration, which you can discuss with your estate planning attorney when you draft your own. If the will does not include language that calls for an independent administration, which can be common in self-prepared wills or wills created out of state, everyone involved must consent to the independent administration. If there is agreement, then the executor can proceed with an independent administration.  

Speak with a Probate and Estate Planning Attorney 

The Law Offices of Debbie Cunningham assist clients with legal issues connected to probate. We also guide our clients through the estate planning process. Regardless of your circumstances, we will create an estate plan that fits your needs and goals. If you have further questions or are ready to speak with an attorney, contact our office today to schedule your consultation. 

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Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham

Debbie Cunningham is an Irving attorney providing affordable estate planning to the Dallas/ Fort-Worth areas. She understands the steps you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Debbie is family-focused and wants to ensure her clients are fully informed on the options that are available for their families. Debbie’s own blended family has given her valuable insights into the complexities of family dynamics.

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