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  • Ryan J. Smollar

What is a Beneficiary in Florida?

A beneficiary is a person who receives your assets when you die. In simple terms, when you make a will, life insurance policy, or open an investment, the person named as the beneficiary will be the recipient of the assets when you pass away. You can list more than one beneficiary and they do not have to be blood relatives. If you are the person giving away your assets, you are known as a benefactor. Since you are the one giving away your assets, you have every right to dictate the conditions on how much and when the person should get your assets. But let’s go beyond the simple answer to the question of what is a beneficiary.



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Understanding Florida Beneficiary Rights


When a person is named a beneficiary, he or she is legally entitled to part of the estate or assets mentioned in the will. The truth of the matter is that beneficiaries in Florida have many rights, protections, and privileges depending on what type of asset they are going to be receiving. If you are listed as a beneficiary in a will, trust, or insurance policy, you need to be familiar with the contractual and legal rights so that you receive your fair share of the assets without a hassle.


The Difference Between A Beneficiary And An Heir


Ok, now we know the answer to what is a beneficiary, but what about an heir? Although most people use the two terms interchangeably, there is a slight distinction between a beneficiary and an heir under Florida probate law. Under the law, beneficiaries in Florida are people named in a will and have the right to receive any assets via the will. An heir, on the other hand, only stands to inherit the estate under Florida's intestate succession laws. This happens when there was no will left by the decedent. In all cases, an heir is related to the deceased, but, on the other hand, a beneficiary does not have to be a blood relative.


Rights of Florida Beneficiaries


In Florida, beneficiaries have rights of which the most important is to be kept informed about the progress of probate and be notified of any important issues relating to the estate. Here is a list of rights that beneficiaries have in Florida:


  1. Receive the notice of appointment of a personal executor. A beneficiary named in the will has the right to be informed that the court has appointed a personal executor. This notice to the beneficiary should also state that he or she has the right to oppose the appointment of the personal representative within 90 days of receiving notice of the estate.

  2. The beneficiary also has the right to know who the other beneficiaries are and how much of the estate they will be receiving.

  3. Removal of a personal representative. In general, Florida beneficiary rights ensure that a beneficiary is treated fairly by the personal representative. Further, the personal representative must always act in the best interest of the estate. If a personal representative is acting unfairly or improperly, the beneficiary can petition the probate court for removal. Other reasons when the beneficiary can request removal are: 1) if the personal representative’s compensation is deemed unreasonable; 2) not having compiled a list of the assets of the decedent; 3) not knowing who the creditors or lien holders are; 4) not paying taxes on the assets; 5) not communicating openly with all the beneficiaries, or 6) there appears to be a conflict of interest in a transaction related to the estate.

  4. The beneficiary also has the right to contest the validity of the will for a variety of reasons, such as lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence. One can also contest the will's validity if you are able to find another original will with a later date.

  5. The beneficiary has the right to see a list of all the assets, their value, and how they are being shared among the other beneficiaries.

  6. The beneficiary has the absolute right to demand that any asset he or she receives is of fair market value. For example, if the fair market value of a house is $300K, then the beneficiary should either receive the property or cash value of the same amount. Anything lower than that is not considered fair market value.

  7. The beneficiary also has the right to look at the accounting expenses, including court costs, executor fees, and legal fees. In addition, the list should also include the amount of taxes owed to creditors. If the beneficiary feels that the accounting is not proper, he or she can request a third party to do the accounting. Of course, this also comes at an additional cost.

  8. The beneficiary also has the right to know if there is any ongoing litigation against the decedent and his or her estate.

  9. If the personal representative is taking too long to resolve the issue after probate is completed, then the beneficiary can ask the court for the right to temporarily distribute the estate.


CONCLUSION


What is a beneficiary? Beneficiaries in Florida have been named in a will or a trust as a recipient of an estate. If you have been named a beneficiary in a will or trust and are not sure how the probate process evolves and/or are unsure of your rights, consult with an inheritance lawyer. There are times when a beneficiary may question how things are proceeding with probate. By working with an experienced inheritance lawyer, you can rest assured you will be entitled to the benefits without the hassle. The right attorney can ensure that, not only do you understand your rights, but that your interests are protected. Elder Law, PA understands the intricacies of the processes involved with wills, trusts, and all things inheritance. Call them today at (561) 933-4769 to learn more.

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