What happens if a beneficiary dies before the testator?

If you have a query about what happens if a beneficiary dies before the testator or need guidance on any other inheritance issue then call us on 0333 888 0404 for a free case assessment or email details to us at [email protected]

Inheritance solicitor Lee Dawkins looks at what happens if a beneficiary dies before the testator.

When a gift is left to a beneficiary in a will and that beneficiary dies before the testator that gift will usually fail to take effect, or ‘lapse’, to use the technical legal term.

A gift which lapses where there is no alternative clause will go into the residue of the estate. It will then be distributed under the residuary provision in the will. If there is no such provision then there could be what is known as partial intestacy.
However there are exceptions to this general rule.

The most important exception to the doctrine of lapse involves gifts to the testator’s children. Section 33(1) of the Wills Act states:
Where—
(a) a will contains a devise or bequest to a child or remoter descendant of the testator; and
(b) the intended beneficiary dies before the testator, leaving issue; and
(c) issue of the intended beneficiary are living at the testator’s death,
then, unless a contrary intention appears by the will, the devise or bequest shall take effect as a devise or bequest to the issue living at the testator’s death.

This means that if a parent leaves their child a gift in a will and that child dies before the parent, leaving children of their own, then those children (the testator’s grandchildren) shall receive the share that would have gone to their parent had they not pre-deceased.

Section 33 can however be expressly excluded by the testator when they make their will. For instance they can specify that if a child of their’s pre-deceases then that child’s share shall be divided between their other surviving children ie the deceased child’s siblings.

If you have a query about what happens if a beneficiary dies before the testator or require guidance on any other inheritance issue then give us a call on 0333 888 0404 for a Free initial case assessment. Alternatively you can email details of your case to us at [email protected]

Lee Dawkins

Lee Dawkins

Over the past 30 years Lee has overseen the expansion of the firm’s litigation department. He developed our personal injury and clinical negligence teams, creating various niche areas that now enjoy a national profile. He pioneered contentious probate, setting up one of the UK's leading inheritance dispute teams and established Slee Blackwell as a force within claimant professional negligence. He now works as the firm's marketing partner.
Lee Dawkins

Lee Dawkins

Over the past 30 years Lee has overseen the expansion of the firm’s litigation department. He developed our personal injury and clinical negligence teams, creating various niche areas that now enjoy a national profile. He pioneered contentious probate, setting up one of the UK's leading inheritance dispute teams and established Slee Blackwell as a force within claimant professional negligence. He now works as the firm's marketing partner.

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Call the Slee Blackwell helpline on 0333 888 0404