What will happen to your estate if your primary beneficiary – the person you name to inherit your assets – dies before you do? If your will doesn’t name an alternate beneficiary, then your estate will be divided according to state law – which might mean it will go to someone you don’t like, or someone who is unable to handle significant assets.
For example, suppose your will divides your estate equally among your children. If one child dies before you do, what do you want to happen to that child’s portion? Should it be divided among the other children? Should it go to the deceased child’s spouse, or to the deceased child’s children? What if the grandchildren are young – should it go into a trust for their benefit?
Of course, if something should happen to one of your beneficiaries, it’s usually possible to rewrite your will later. But what if you are incapacitated at the time, and can’t make amendments to you will? That’s why it’s always good to include alternate beneficiaries in your will, so your wishes will be observed even if you can’t rewrite your will as circumstances change.