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What Are The Different Types Of Beneficiaries Under A Florida Will?


One of the main purposes in making a will is to name one or more beneficiaries who will receive your property after your death. Broadly speaking, there are three types of beneficiaries under a will: primary, alternate, and residuary. Here is a brief explanation of each category.

Primary Beneficiaries

A primary beneficiary is basically your first choice to receive specific gifts of property from your probate estate. In some cases a person leaves their entire estate to one person, which makes the recipient the sole primary beneficiary. But a primary beneficiary is anyone named in the will to receive a gift or bequest.

For example, let’s say Charles makes a will stating, “I give $50,000 to my friend Carol, and my car to my son John.” Carol and John are both primary beneficiaries of the estate. A primary beneficiary can also be an organization, such as a charity, who is given a specific gift.

Alternate Beneficiaries

As the name implies, an alternate (or contingent) beneficiary is someone who receives property in the event the primary beneficiary does not survive the person who made the will. To modify the above hypothetical slightly, Charles’ will now reads, “I give my car to my son John, if he survives me, otherwise to my daughter Susan.” John remains the primary beneficiary but Susan is now the alternate beneficiary.

Residuary Beneficiaries

Any property that is not transferred by a specific bequest or outside of probate is considered part of the deceased person’s residuary estate, sometimes called the “rest and remainder.” Put another way, the residuary beneficiaries are any persons or organizations designated to receive what is left in the estate after any specific bequests are made to the primary or alternate beneficiaries. A will can also designate an alternate residuary beneficiary if the original residuary beneficiary does not survive the person who made the will.

Florida’s Anti-Lapse Statute

Historically, the common law rules regarding wills held that if a beneficiary named in a will did not survive the testator, the gift simply “lapsed” and became part of the residuary estate. Florida has modified this rule with an “Anti-Lapse Statute,” which is codified under 732.603 of the Florida Statutes. This statutory rule provides that unless the will directs otherwise, any gift made to a “grandparent, or a descendant of a grandparent, of the testator,” who dies before the testator will then go to that person’s surviving descendants.

In simple terms, if you name a blood relative as a primary beneficiary in your will and they die before you, your gift will be divided among their surviving descendants, unless your will names an alternate beneficiary or expressly directs it be added to your residuary estate.

Speak with a Florida Estate Planning Attorney Today

It is important to carefully consider the selection of primary, alternate, and residuary beneficiaries when making a will. An experienced St. Petersburg wills lawyer can help. Contact Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, today to schedule a consultation with a member of our estate planning team.



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