How do I ensure my inheritance goes to my son?

1 answer | Last updated: Jun 18, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

I am the sole heir on my mother's will. If I should die before she does, how can I ensure that my son will get the money and land from her?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Generally speaking, beneficiaries must usually survive the willmaker before they are legally entitled to take property left to them in another person's will.

So if you die before your mother, then what happens to the property in her will depends on the wording of her document. And that can get complicated in a hurry.

If the will states that the beneficiary must survive a certain time or until the property is distributed"”as most wills specify"”then the property would go instead to any alternate beneficiary named in your mother's will. If no alternate is named, then the property would be distributed as directed by the will's "residuary clause ”which usually indicates what person or organization should get the property left in the estate once all gifts are given and debts paid. However, if there is no survivorship clause and no alternates named, then the property would pass to the original beneficiary's own heirs"”and this would likely mean your son if you are unmarried and he is your only child.

Your safest route is to discuss your concerns with your mother"”and if she is willing and able, ask he to name your son as your alternate beneficiary in her will. That would eliminate some of the contingencies and possibilities that might dictate that the property should be distributed in some other way.