What if a beneficiary dies before probate is done?
Probate in South Carolina can be an involved, complicated process. It is made all the more complex when one of the beneficiaries dies during the pendency of the probate action. This circumstance is more common than you might think, as probate can take months or even years to complete. When a beneficiary dies during probate, the inheritance that was to go to that beneficiary passes based on state law and the terms of the relevant will or wills.
Typical treatment of property on beneficiary’s death
Usually, the beneficiary of a will accedes to the gifts under that will as soon as the decedent dies. Thus, if the beneficiary dies while the will is still being probated, the gift under the will would pass to the beneficiary’s beneficiaries under the beneficiary’s will. Technically the first transfer is effective as of the date of the first death, even if the original beneficiary never takes possession of the property and dies during probate.
Exceptions to the typical treatment
In some cases, a person’s will might require that a named beneficiary must outlive him or her by a specified period of time before they can take possession of the bequeathed property. The period of time could be as little as a few hours or up to a few months. This period is referred to as the survivorship period. States also have survivorship periods in their probate laws; these state survivorship periods are typically very short.
Different treatment for classes of beneficiaries
Bequeathments to classes are a common way to transfer property on death. The will might make a gift to all of the testator’s children, for example. Should one of the members of such a class die prior to the conclusion of probate, that member’s estate does not take possession of the willed property. This is the opposite treatment of specific gifts. Probate can be complex and the complexities are multiplied when beneficiaries die close in time to the testator.