All You Need to Know About the Sub-Categories of Beneficiaries for Your Will

When you’re naming someone in a will, you have to use the right wording. This ensures that the terms and clauses of your will takes effect in the way that you intend them to. Four terms that people often confuse with one another include legatee, heir, beneficiary, and devisee. To help you clarify the differences between these terms, we have come up with a short guide so that you can understand and use them correctly. Shall we begin?

What Is a Beneficiary?

In a will, the beneficiary will receive an asset or piece of property after you pass away. [1] It’s an umbrella term that covers every type of property receiver named in a will. We will discuss this later on in this article.

What Is a Legatee?

In old legal terms, a legatee is someone who receives a personal property [2] -- not the real property -- from the estate. Personal property is movable property. This includes anything from a mobile home and a vehicle to even a stock, bond, or intellectual property.

What Is a Devisee?

The devisee (opposite of the legatee) will receive the decedent’s real property instead of personal property from the estate. [3] Like legatee, this definition is an old legal term. Nowadays, the term refers to anyone named to receive the property in the decedent’s will. They don’t need be blood-related, as long as their names will appear in the list.

What Is an Heir?

An heir, the blood relative of the person, named to receive property after a person’s death. [4] This includes legitimate children, parents, siblings, nieces, and everyone that has a familial tie with the decedent. If the deceased isn’t married or doesn’t have a child, the closest blood relative will be named their heir. The litigation process will take place in order to distribute the decedent’s properties. If the decedent has a child, the child will be named the primary heir. They will most likely receive the majority of the assets and properties of the decedent.

Difference Between a Legatee and a Devisee?

In old law terms, a legatee  will receive the personal property. On the other hand, the devisee will receive the real property. Under current laws, however, the two terms can be considered synonyms. Some states may use the term “legatee” to refer to someone who will receive the decedent’s properties. Others may use “devisee.”

Who Is a “Universal Legatee?"

In Louisiana, you can name your property a “universal legacy.” [5] This means that everything that comes with that property, whether it’s rights, obligations, possession, and even ancestral debts, gets passed on to the “universal legatee.”  Unlike in most cases where everything gets devised and distributed individually, the universal legatee takes everything that comes with the property. Both the good and the bad.

As you can see, naming a beneficiary can be difficult and confusing. Using Free Will Kit to help you with this issue is a great help. Visit our website today and see what we have to offer.



1. “Beneficiary.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Mar. 2018,

2. “Legatee.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex,

3. “From the 'Lectric Law Library's Lexicon Devise, Devisee.” The Presumption Of Innocence - Criminal Defense |,

4. “Inheritance.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Mar. 2019,

5. Upton, Wheelock S., et al. Code Civil De L'eætat De La Louisiane; / with Annotations by Wheelock S. Upton, LL. B. and Needler R. Jennings.: : By Authority. E. Johns & Co., Stationers' Hall., 1838.

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