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Who gets the trust funds if beneficiary is deceased and no one is named?


I have a complicated question. My grandfather died around five years ago. He left a condo in Florida in trust to his wife. She recently passed away. The trust says that proceeds from the house should be split amongst my grandfather's four children (my mother being one of them). However, my mother passed away and had no will. My father has since remarried. I have no siblings. The question is whether a) I receive the proceeds, b) my father receives them, c) they get redivided amongst my mother's other three siblings. The lawyer on the case seems to think my father gets the funds, but wanted to see if you could advise further.



Jun 05, 2012 by Joseph from Arlington, VA in  |  Flag
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10 votes

The answer to your question may lie in the wording of the trust document and not in the general workings of estate law. Have you reviewed the trust document?

If you have concerns about the advice that you are receiving from the lawyer handling the estate, my recommendation is to get a second opinion. Since every state has a different trust and estate laws, seek out an attorney who is versed in the laws of the state that governs the trust. Some attorneys offer free initial consultations. However, even if you have to pay a nominal fee, it may be well worth the cost given what is at stake.

Good luck.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Jun 06, 2012 from San Diego, CA

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8 votes

Hi JL, Had your father remarried before your grandmother passed away? Also, did your mom predecease your grandmother? Typically, if an heir has already passed away, then the property gets divided "per stirpes", which means it would then go to your mother's descendants. Hopefully, this is handled in the trust documents. However, that is not necessarily the case. We really need a bit more info to make a definitive answer.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Jun 06, 2012 from Buford, GA

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Allan Henriques Level 18

Hi JL,

I’d just like to echo Robert’s answer above. Get a second opinion from another lawyer, one who has lots of experience working with trusts and estates in your state. An estate lawyer can review the trust documents and offer you an expert opinion on how the estate should be divided.

The trust language will be your key. Often times, the trust disposition provides that assets are “left to my children in equal shares” or language to that effect. If your grandfather’s trust has similar language, or if includes wording like “in equal shares by right of representation,” this could be an indication that you are entitled to your mother’s share. A qualified attorney should be able to give you a dependable answer.

Your situation is also a great example of why it’s important to take the time to do thorough estate planning. Far too many people are like your mother (who probably assumed she just didn’t need a will). But after they die, their family discovers that there are issues that could have been clarified with proper estate documents. Investing a little time and money now can help save your heirs a lot of hassle in the future.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Jun 11, 2012 from Rocklin, CA

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