You have likely been told more than once that the time to start your estate planning is now. One of the main reasons behind this advice is to the ensure that you retain control over who in Hernando County benefits from your estate. Typically, your beneficiaries will come directly from your pool of heirs. This might seem confusing given that like many, you may think the words “heir” and “beneficiary” are synonymous. Not only are they not, but there actually different types of heirs. 

Beneficiaries are those that you designate (in your estate planning documents) to receive your estate assets; heirs, on the other hand, are any people entitled to inherit a portion of your estate by law. So while your spouse, children and grandchildren are your heirs, only your spouse and your children are considered to be your beneficiaries if you bequeath your estate assets to them. 

Per Florida’s Probate Code, there are two classifications of heirs. The first are “heirs at law.” These are your direct descendents who can claim a legal right to inherit your estate when you die. Then there are “collateral heirs.” These are people who are related to you through a common ancestor, yet are not your direct descendants. 

Why should it matter to you to know the two different types of heirs? If you put off your estate planning and end up dying without a will, your heirs at law are entitled to receive your assets through intestate succession guidelines. Your collateral heirs would only inherit assets if you had no surviving heirs at law. This offers even further incentive to start your estate planning now if you want to leave something to a collateral heir.