Q: In PA is a beneficiary entitled to gifts from a decedent's will if the beneficiary dies before probate is finalized?
A beneficiary was named in a Pennsylvania will. The will went to probate in PA courts, but the beneficary died before the probate and any gifts were distributed. It had been over 1 year and 6 mts since Probate started. The executor is stating that the beneficary will not receive the gifts because they are now deceased. I don't think this is correct. What are the laws in PA? I am also a beneficiary in this person's will, but am more concerned for the family of the deceased beneficiary, who is being told that no gift will be forthcoming. I just want to know the facts before I continue with helping my friend. We may need to get involved in finding out what has and has not been done for Probate. Are all records of the Probate public knowledge in Pennsylvania Courts? THank you
The timing of probate would not be relevant unless there is something in the Will that would make it relevant. If the beneficiary was living at the time of death of the Testator and survived for any survival period required by the Will, the beneficiary would be entitled to the bequest. If the beneficiary dies before distribution, the beneficiary’s estate would receive the distribution. Unfortunately, inheritance tax would be owed both for the distribution from the Testator’s estate and
From the beneficiary’s estate.
The key to the answer to your question is the wording of the Will admitted to probate. If the Will states that the beneficiaries take PER STIRPES, meaning, roughly, "branch", then that beneficiary's Estate, wife and children or heirs will take the inheritance. If the Will does not clearly state that the bequest is per stirpes, then that beneficiary's share will be distributed amongst the living named beneficiaries.
Most of what a Personal Representative (Executor/Executrix) does is noted, one way or another, in the Probate Court's file and available for inspection that way. Of course, you/your counsel may ask the personal representative or Estate lawyer any questions.
You are best advised to confer with an experienced PA attorney about these issues. As with most areas of the law, this is not territory to "go it alone".
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