It can take months or years for a probate case in New York or elsewhere to come to an end. Therefore, the possibility exists that a beneficiary will pass before he or she is able to receive any property. What happens to items that were intended for a deceased beneficiary depends on a number of factors such as the language included in your will.

Assets may be reallocated among living beneficiaries

Let’s say that you split your estate evenly among your three children. If one child were to die, the other two children would each receive half of your assets as opposed to receiving a third of your assets. If a single person were named as a beneficiary in your will, his or her inheritance may be reallocated per the language in the will or state probate rules.

A survivorship period may be in effect

The amount of time that passes between your death and the death of a beneficiary may determine how that person’s inheritance is accounted for. If a person dies outside of the survivorship period, assets left for that individual become a part of his or her estate. However, if a beneficiary dies within that period, property earmarked for that individual may revert back to your estate.

The surivorship period may be determined either by language inserted into your will or by state probate law. Generally speaking, a person must outlive you by several days or weeks to obtain any of your property. It is important to note that if assets do become part of a beneficiary’s estate, they would be passed along in accordance with that person’s estate plan.

A probate litigation attorney may be able to help your estate representative handle any complex issues that arise after you pass. An attorney may also help you craft an estate plan that names alternate beneficiaries or includes other contingencies that may make probate easier on your loved ones.