Heirs vs. Beneficiaries

May 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

It often happens in a testate estate that I am called upon in one order or another to adjudicate a legatee or other person designated to receive a bequest as an “heir of the decedent.”

A beneficiary under a will may, indeed, be an heir, but not necessarily.

An heir is a person having a right of descent and distribution by virtue of MCA 91-1-1, et seq. when there is no will.

A beneficiary is a person designated in a will to receive a specific devise or bequest or to receive all or part of the residuary estate. It is not required that heirs be named as devisees or legatees in a will. Heirs may be disinherited.

Thus, it is inaccurate, and can be misleading, to include language in your pleadings and proposed orders and judgments naming devisees and legatees of wills as “heirs” when they are not necessarily so.

To be accurate, name the beneficiaries under the will in your case as “beneficiaries.” Save the designation of “heirs” for your intestate cases; however, in districts where your chancellors require determination of heirship even in testate estates, limit your use of the term “heirs” to those so determined to be, distinguishing them from the beneficiaries under the will.

A helpful glossary of terms used in probate matters can be found at this link.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Heirs vs. Beneficiaries at The Better Chancery Practice Blog.


%d bloggers like this: