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When I wrote my will, I planned to give a substantial amount of money to a friend. She has since pre-deceased me. She was single with no children. Will her brothers stand to inherit the funds? Do I have to amend the will or will a letter of intent suffice?

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In the US, the answer will depend on state law. In general, if a beneficiary predeceases the person making the will, the gift is said to lapse. A lapsed gift might go back to the will maker's estate, but many states have "antilapse" statutes where the beneficiary's heirs receive the gift. And to be more complicated, some antilapse statutes only apply to beneficiaries who are related to the will maker.

The easiest way to ensure gifts are distributed how you want is to make a will that names primary beneficiaries and that names alternative beneficiaries in case a beneficiary dies before you. Eg, you leave $100 to Mary but if Mary dies before you, you leave that $100 to Fred.
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Please...don't take this wrong, just curious. Why when your friend passed, your first thought wouldn't be to change your will. Its done all the time. Personally, we have done it twice. Once when our girls were small to provide for them if something should happen and again when they were past 18 to make sure our assets were split evenly between them. If one of us passes, then the surving spouse will need to do one for themselves.

I would think that if a beneficary dies before the person who wrote the will, it will be up to the court to determine next of kin. So then your will gets held up in Probate. I would just remove her from ur will. It was nice to think of her though.😊
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If you are in the US then it absolutely does matter what your will states. Her brothers could inherit the money. But I agree you should ask your lawyer. The way my MIL’s will was written, if one of her children were to pre-decease her, their share would go to their spouse. That’s a little different than your situation because it’s a spouse not a sibling, but PER THE LAWYER, it is the law—she could not stipulate that if one of the beneficiaries died first, their share would go to their siblings. She wanted to do that because she did not want her step-sons wife to get anything if he died but by law, she gets his share. It could also be a matter of state law, not federal. I believe it is because of California state law that my MIL wasn’t able to stipulate in her will that her step sons share couldn’t pass to his wife. But I am not 100% sure on that. I just know that by law, she’s legally entitled to anything left to him should he die.
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Reply to worriedinCali
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JoAnn29 Oct 25, 2018
This is surprising. You should be able to stipulate whoever you want to inherit. Why couldn't she have left son's share to the children, not the wife? Instead of saying, if beneficary dies the spouse inherits...can't she mention them each by name like...If Harry goes before me, his spouse inherits, if John goes before me, his children inherits. Or you have 3 sons and if the one dies the other two inherit leaving the spouses out of it. Just wondering.
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Just a heads up, while I'm sure MargaretMcKen is very knowledgeable about law as it is commonly practised in Australia and the UK I'm not certain that her expertise can be transferred to the USA.
Bottom line - a simple phone call to your lawyer can answer your questions and tell you the best way to proceed.
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MargaretMcKen Oct 25, 2018
Of course it's possible that you are right about differing local law, but I would be very surprised on this topic (or I wouldn't have written it). Absolutely flabbergasted if it resulted in intestacy, as suggested in one of the posts. The clauses about what happens if a beneficiary predeceases the testator are usually about redirecting the bequest, rather than letting it fall into the residuary estate. But yes, it's a good idea to consult a local lawyer. The very worst option is DIY, because so many people get it wrong.
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The bequest that you left to your friend has lapsed with her death. It cannot fall into her estate. It will fall into yours. If your will was competently drafted, then your residuary estate (ie whatever is left over) will be left to one person or divided between more than one. The money you originally left to your friend will be part of the residuary estate, split between your existing residuary legatees in the proportions set out in your will.

Depending on your financial situation and your feelings about your residuary legatees, you might like to make a bequest to charity in memory of your friend. Don’t do it yourself! The ‘home-made will’ is a traditional lawyer’s toast, because of the litigation it leads to! And a ‘letter of intent’ will have no effect at all. Codicils are rarely used today because it is simpler to make a new will (an easy change on the old word processor file), and codicils require all the formalities of a new will. To change your will, go to a lawyer. If you want to remember your friend, and don’t want to change your will, you could make it a gift now while you can ‘supervise’ how it is used. Best wishes, Margaret LLB FCCA
(PS I've now completed my profile)
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It depends whether your will contains any provisions for what will happen if your beneficiary predeceases you. If not, then I believe you will be treated as having died without a will, and your funds will pass to your legal heirs. If that's not what you want, make a new will.
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MargaretMcKen Oct 25, 2018
This is not right. Please see below.
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I agree, get your will changed.
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MargaretMcKen Oct 25, 2018
Please see below
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This depends on how your will is written, often there is a clause included about what happens if you are predeceased by one of the beneficiaries, if there is none then you will need to make your intentions known. Since you are competent to make changes I suggest you ask your lawyer about whether you need a new will or if a codicil will do.
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MargaretMcKen Oct 25, 2018
Please look at my post below, this isn't right.
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