DEFINITION of 'Legatee'

A recipient of all or part of a deceased person's estate. A legatee is more commonly known as a beneficiary or heir to the terms of a will. The term comes from the word "legacy", meaning inheritance. If a person dies without a will and has no living relatives, the assets will go to the state.

BREAKING DOWN 'Legatee'

If a legatee does not want to accept an inheritance, he or she can formally disclaim the assets within nine months of the testator's death (unless the legatee is underage, which in that case they cannot disclaim until they reach the age of majority). The disclaimer is permanent and the assets will then pass to the contingent beneficiary. An heir might want to disclaim an inheritance if it would be burdensome to own (like an undesirable piece of real estate), or if the legatee didn't need the inheritance and felt it would be more helpful to the contingent beneficiary.

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