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What Is a Devisee?


According to a recent Gallup poll, less than half of U.S. adults currently have a will that describes how they want their estate and money handled after they die. At just 46%, that leaves the majority of citizens unaware of the estate administration process and unprepared. As a result, you may be unfamiliar with technical terms, such as a devisee. Understanding terms like this is paramount when you plan your own estate. They’re also important given the chance that you inherit something from someone else. A devisee applies to individuals that receive a specific type of property through a will.

If you’re in the process of estate planning, it may be a good idea to speak with a financial advisor. Try using SmartAsset’s free advisor matching tool today.

What Is a Devisee?

Typically, a devisee is an individual who receives real estate property from another person through the latter’s last will and testament. Their inheritance is strictly land and real estate, not personal property. These days, a devisee does not need to be related to the decedent. As a result, anyone can be a devisee as long as the testator (writer of the will) passes real property to them.

Devisees break up into two types: residuary devisee and specific devisee. A residuary devisee is the entity or person entitled to receive the remainder of the estate that is not explicitly devised (or designated to a party). In contrast, a specific devisee only receives particular real property that the decedent designated in the will.

Technically, you’re not a devisee if you receive real estate from someone who died without a will. In that case, your actual label is an “heir.”

How the Process Works

After the writer of the will passes, the estate’s executor typically brings the will to court. There, the court validates it and approves any property or asset transfers. The timeline and specifics of the process usually depend on the estate’s size and local regulations. Cases vary, but they either lead to a formal probate process, an informal probate process or no probate process at all. In the scenario with no probate process, the devisee usually receives their assets the quickest. However, a probate process can drag this out.

Devisees need to be notified throughout the estate administration or probate process. They may also have to name themselves on a petition for probate. If you have questions about the steps you should take, consider consulting an attorney or a financial advisor. They may be able to walk you through your responsibilities and duties as a devisee.

Devisee vs. Legatee

What is a Devisee

Both legatees and devisees inherit property through a person’s will. But a devisee only inherits real property, whereas a legatee inherits personal items. However, this definition can vary. For instance, it’s common to use “legatee” in North Carolina to refer to an individual who receives any type of property according to a will.

Both terms can also apply to anything from a person to a charitable organization or a business. They can even apply to trust accounts designated in the deceased’s will, which will then transfer funds to the trust beneficiaries.

Legatees also split into the same categories as a devisee. Specific legatees receive property named for them in the will, such as a bracelet or painting. Residuary legatees receive all personal property not specifically mentioned in the will.

Devisee vs. Beneficiary

Beneficiary is unspecific and used in a broad sense. When you set up a person to receive an asset, you call them a beneficiary. This may be done through a will, but it can also apply if they receive something through an account. People use “beneficiary” in a variety of situations as a result. For example, there are college savings accounts called 529 plans. You can name anyone the beneficiary of a 529 plan, including your biological children, foster children, family friend or even yourself.

Since devisees receive an asset through a will, they qualify as beneficiaries. However, not all beneficiaries count as devisees. Beneficiary works like an umbrella term that devisee sits under.

Other assets require beneficiary designations, such as payable-on-death accounts (POA), life insurance or trusts. Opening a trust is a common estate planning tactic for estate owners. By using a trust, they can pass along assets directly to their beneficiaries and avoid the probate process. An owner may even transfer ownership of real property to a trust, in which case the trust would become a devisee.

Devisee vs. Heir

In a general sense, an heir is anyone who may possibly inherit. So, in a casual conversation, you may refer to a child or close friend as an heir even if you don’t know their inheritance status. You just assume they are an heir based on their potential to inherit. But the word “heir” actually has legal weight.

When used in terms of a will or in probate law, you become an “heir” if you inherit from someone who died intestate. That means you receive assets from someone who passed without a will. In this situation, a probate court must handle the distribution of the estate.

A probate judge and court decide how to divvy the property based on state intestacy laws. These vary by state, but they typically abide by the rule of “next of kin.” That usually means a surviving spouse or child becomes heir through the probate process.

Bottom Line

What is a Devisee

Simply put, a devisee is someone who is left with real estate by the terms of a will. However, there are other terms out there that are similar, and it helps to understand them as well. While a devisee receive real estate, the term isn’t used to describe someone who receives other types of assets in a will. By understanding exactly what it means to be a devisee and learning how it relates to other estate planning terms, you can be better prepared for the estate planning process.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Professional guidance can be an invaluable resource for anyone tackling an estate plan. If you need to create an estate plan or reconsider an inheritance, consider speaking with a financial advisor. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • While debt can take a bite out of an estate, so can the estate tax. So, anyone with a significantly sized estate should factor that into their plan. Remember: some states still levy an estate tax along with the federal tax.

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