The words “Beneficiary” and “Heir” are often used interchangeably, but each word has a very specific legal definition.
A beneficiary is someone who benefits from the transfer of property, such as by a Will or a Trust. A beneficiary can even be the person who transfers the property. For example, in the case of a Revocable Trust, the grantor (the person who creates the trust and transfers the property to the Trust) is also the beneficiary.
An heir, on the other hand, is a person who inherits when there is no Will or Trust by virtue of a state’s intestacy laws. Each state has specific rules regarding how property will pass if you die without a Will. For example, in Texas, many factors, such as whether you are a parent, are married or single, and how your property is characterized, will dictate who will inherit your property when you die.
If you don’t have a Will or Trust and would like to know who your legal heirs are, read: Dying Without a Will: The Texas Intestacy Statutes.