Wills and estates are always quite stressful to deal with, especially when there are some complications like the beneficiary having a different last name than what’s indicated in the will. This commonly happens, though. After all, people typically draft their estate plans years in advance.
In many cases, the names of the people on the document change between the time of its writing and the enforcement. For one, wives get divorced. Daughters, nieces, and granddaughters grow up, get married, and assume the last name of their husbands. That means their present name could be different from what’s on the will.
What happens then? In this post, Dreyer and Associates Family Lawyers shares the answer:
Understanding How Wills and Trusts Work
Wills and trusts give grantors the ability to name beneficiaries who will receive their assets when the grantor passes away. Now, to go back to the question above, what happens when the beneficiary’s name on the document is still her maiden name, and she got married since?
The law acknowledges that things like marriage and divorce happen, which may result in the change of maiden names. Because the law will enforce the deceased’s wishes, as long as the beneficiary’s identity is established, they will still get what’s indicated in the will or trust, regardless of their current last name.
This is also the case for documents with misspelled names or if the grantor did not write the beneficiary’s full legal name.
That said, it is still best to ensure that you spell the names of your beneficiaries correctly when you do write your will. If possible, include accurate information that can help identify them in the future in case there’s a need for it.
The Need for Proof of Identity
As mentioned, the law will accept if the beneficiary’s name has changed from that in the will. That said, the beneficiary still needs to present proof that they are the person indicated by the grantor. They may have to submit their marriage certificate or a divorce decree to show how and why the name changed.
If marriage contracts or divorce decrees are not available for some reason, affidavits signed by third parties with no conflict of interest might be enough. The third party will do this to prove that the individual concerned is, in fact, the beneficiary of the will.
In an ideal world, all grantors ensure that their legal documents bear correct names and addresses to prevent any confusion and conflict in the future. In fact, any estate plans should be reviewed now and then to ensure that nothing needs changing. But because people rarely do that, the law has to find ways to connect the dots and just be quite strict when it comes to verifying the identity of the beneficiary. As mentioned, the beneficiary with her maiden name changed has to show a marriage certificate, her divorce decree, or an affidavit from a third-party witness. Once the court deems the documentation sufficient and accurate, the funds, property, or other assets can be distributed.
One of the most common complications with wills and estates is errors in spelling beneficiaries’ names or a change in their last name. The latter typically happens when the will bear the maiden name of the beneficiary (or her married name, in case of a wife) whose last name changed. But as discussed here, there are ways to ensure the beneficiary receives what the grantor left. To avoid any hitch, you need to consult with a lawyer who specializes in these matters.
Dreyer and Associates Family Lawyers offers you the services of a seasoned wills and estates lawyer in the Fraser Valley. Contact our firm today to schedule your legal consultation!