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What if someone died and there is an account with no beneficiary on it?

last will and testament

If a loved one has passed away, their estate will need to be managed. Generally, this is done through the courts in a legal process called probate. This process is influenced by whether the person had a will and who they listed as their beneficiaries. A beneficiary is a person that is entitled to some or all of the deceased assets.

However, things get complicated if there are no living beneficiaries in the will or there is no will for the courts to use for guidance.

 In these circumstances, the court will follow certain rules to make sure that the assets are divided up legally and fairly.

Probate and Administration of Estates in Nevada

In Nevada, probate is the legal process that happens after a person dies when they have a will. The court has steps that help loved ones manage the deceased’s estate.

This includes paying off creditors, managing property, and identifying and distributing assets to beneficiaries. The probate process can be expensive and time-consuming. The process can be avoided if the estate is smaller than $20,000 and no real property is involved. 

A similar process to probate is used if there is no will. This process is called Administration and it has comparable steps to probate. In this case, however, no beneficiaries are expressly listed so the court has to follow inheritance and intestate laws. This means that they will look at living relatives to see who can inherit the estate.

If there is a Will, but no Beneficiaries were listed

A will is a written legal document that a person creates in order to make their wishes known as to how they want their estate to be divided when they die. Usually, specific beneficiaries are identified in the document. However, beneficiaries in the will may no longer be alive or certain circumstances may make it impossible to enforce the will as written. In those cases, the courts will determine the next course of action.

The main way that a will can have no beneficiaries is if a person had a written will with specific beneficiaries listed, however, those individuals are deceased. This means that there are no living beneficiaries expressly listed in the will. This happens when a will was not updated when the beneficiary passed away.  

Nevada has an anti-lapse statute that applies to when a beneficiary listed in a will has predeceased the person with the estate in question. The law dictates that if the deceased beneficiary was related to the person with the will in question, then their assets listed in the will go to their heirs.

For example, if a father passed away and his son was listed on the will as the beneficiary but predeceased his father, then those assets will transfer to the son’s children. 

The rules are different if the predeceased beneficiary is not related to the person with the will. When this happens, the assets do not pass down to additional relatives. Instead, the money and property revert back to the estate and divided accordingly to blood-relatives.

However, specific language in the will can negate the anti-lapse statute and make assets be divided by different rules dictated by the deceased.   

Another way that a will can have no beneficiaries is that the court finds that the actual will is invalid. This can happen for a number of reasons including fraud, lack of capacity, duress, or undue influence.

It is also possible that the will is not valid because the basic legal requirements of the will were not met. Some of these reasons include the person who executed it is under 18 or that the document is not in writing or is not signed. If any of these reasons happen, the estate will be treated as if there is no will. 

If there was no Will

The courts will follow intestacy laws if the person died in Nevada without a will. All property that is considered community property will go directly to the spouse of the deceased. This is property that was obtained during the marriage, usually as a joint effort by both spouses.

If there is no spouse, then the community property is divided by any children or their living heirs. 

If the property is considered separate property, meaning that it was acquired before the marriage, it will generally be split evenly between any living children and the spouse. The spouse would receive half of the separate property and the children would receive the other half, which would be divided up between themselves.

If there is no spouse or the spouse is deceased, then the children would gain all of the estate. If a child predeceased a parent, then their heirs and children would get their share of the estate. 

If a person dies without a will and also has no immediate family, their estate will then go to the state. This is a rare occurrence and an effort is made by Nevada to find some living relative to act as the heir to the estate.

For more information, read about how an estate is handled if there is no will or trust.

Anything else to know? 

Some aspects of the estate are not handled through probate or administration. These include retirement plans, 401(k) accounts, IRAs, and life insurance proceeds.

These usually require that a beneficiary be named on the document when it is created. If that is the case, then these are not part of the assets that will be divided when settling the estate. Rather, the beneficiaries listed on these documents will receive the payout.

However, being a beneficiary on one of these accounts does not automatically transfer beneficiary status to the whole estate if no beneficiary is listed in a will or there was no will.

If you are someone who has specific requests about how your estate should be handled after you die, it is best to have a will that clearly assigns beneficiaries.

It is also important to make sure that the document is updated regularly. Even if you do not have specific requests but you do have a spouse and children, a will can ensure that the probate process will go smoothly for them and they will not have any additional stress dealing with a drawn-out legal process after you are gone. 

If more information or questions, call our experienced last will and testament attorneys for free consultation.