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Heirs and beneficiaries: What if legal obstacles arise?

Losing a loved one is a sorrowful event many people in Illinois and across the country will experience this year. Thousands of people will learn that they have been named as heirs and beneficiaries in an estate plan. In some situations, the administration of a particular estate will be simple, clear-cut and not especially stressful.

Being an heir is not the same as being a beneficiary. An heir is someone who may be entitled to inherit assets because of his or her relation to the estate owner who has died. A beneficiary, on the other hand, is someone who has been designated (by an estate owner) to receive property or assets through means of a last will and testament or established trust.

Beneficiaries can also be heirs but not all heirs are necessarily beneficiaries. Also, simply being an heir does not mean that one can expect to inherit property or assets. Much depends on what types of documents the estate owner signed and the exact instructions or terms contained therein. A person might be an heir by relation yet an existing last will and testament might designate a beneficiary who is not an heir to receive all assets.

Because the estate planning process is customizable, things can get rather complicated regarding heirs and beneficiaries. Disputes often arise between parties when both sides claim to have rights to the same assets. Anyone in Illinois who is worried about legal obstacles associated with inheritance or other estate matters can seek clarification of the laws that govern such issues by requesting a meeting with an experienced estate planning and administration attorney. Lesser, Lutrey, Pasquesi & Howe, LLP, is committed to providing support to those who wish to execute estate plans, as well as those who have been named in someone's estate or who believe they have a right to inheritance even though an existing will does not include them. 

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