When asked if he or she is an heir or beneficiary to his or her parents assets, one would likely respond with a “Yes.” Yet is that assumption correct? It depends on the context in which those terms are being used. Most in Columbus may use the words “heir” and “beneficiary” interchangeably, when in fact they have different meanings entirely.

Per the online publication The Nest, an heir is what most commonly refer to as a “next of kin,” while a beneficiary is a party (either a person or an organization) named as receiving assets from an estate. For example, a person can decide to leave his or her home and other real estate holdings to his or her children, his or her personal art collection to a local museum, and his or her monetary assets to a local charity. Each party named in this case is considered to be a beneficiary. However, these designations must be made in the benefactor’s will. If he or she dies without a will, then his or her estate becomes subject to intestate succession guidelines (which have been detailed on this blog previously). Those entitled to receive his or her estate through intestate succession are said to be heirs.

Who ensures that one’s heirs or beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to? That role falls to either an estate’s administrator or executor. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, when one names a person in a will to oversee the management of his or her estate, that person is called the executor. When one does not name such a person (or dies intestate), then the probate court appoints an administrator to perform the same function. That appointment is often determined following guidelines similar to those of intestate succession.