Choosing Alternates for Your Children

If you leave your child or children most of your property, your next task will be to decide who should get that property in the worst case scenario -- if your children die before you do.

The will you create with Nolo's Online Will provides that a beneficiary must survive you by 45 days to receive property through the will. This is a standard will provision, called a survivorship requirement. It is based on the assumption that if a beneficiary survives you by only a few weeks, you would prefer the property to go to another beneficiary that you name in your will.

The alternates you choose for your children will only receive the property they would have received if your children die within 45 days of your death.

If you have one child, you can name one or more alternates who will get the property that would have gone to that child.

If you have more than one child, you designated shares for your children, and one child dies before you, that child's share will go to the surviving children. You can name alternates who will take the property only if all of your children don't survive you by 45 days.

    If you have more than one child, you chose to use a pot trust, and any child does not survive you, the others will share the property. You can name alternates who will take the property only if all of your children do not survive you by 45 days.

    Naming Alternates for Your Children

    You may name whomever you want as the alternate for your children. If the children do not survive you by 45 days, the alternate will receive the property they would have received. If you name more than one alternate, you may specify the share each is to receive.

    EXAMPLE: In her will, Sharon leaves her daughter most of her property and a few specific gifts to friends. As an alternate for her daughter, she names her daughter’s two young children.

    If you name more than one alternate, and one does not survive you, the surviving alternates will receive the deceased alternate's share.

    If You Do Not Name Alternates

    It is usually a good idea to name alternates, but not everyone chooses to do so. You may decide not to name an alternate, for example, if you are not concerned that your children might die before or soon after you. Or you may simply not know a person suitable to act as an alternate taker.

    If you leave all or most of your entire estate to your one child, that child does not survive you, and you have not named alternates, then property that would have gone to your child will be distributed according to the laws of your state. Learn more about the laws of Intestate Succession.

    However, if you have more than one child, you leave all or most of your entire estate to your children, and you do not name alternates, if any of those children die within 45 days of your death, the surviving children will share the deceased person’s property. If you like this plan, then you do not need to name alternate beneficiaries for your children. You can name alternates, but the alternates will only take the property if all of your children die within 45 days of your death.

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