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Beneficiary vs. Legatee: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 11, 2023
A beneficiary is a person who receives benefits or advantages from something, while a legatee specifically refers to someone who inherits property through a will.

Key Differences

Beneficiary is a broad term for anyone who gains an advantage, benefit, or profit from something, not necessarily through inheritance. A legatee, however, is specifically an individual who receives personal property through a will.
Beneficiaries can receive benefits from various sources, including insurance policies, trusts, or retirement plans. While, legatees are exclusively associated with the context of wills and the distribution of personal property after someone's death.
The term beneficiary is not limited to legal contexts and can apply in many situations involving benefits. In contrast, a legatee is a legal term specifically used in the context of estate planning and wills.
A beneficiary's benefits are not restricted to tangible assets and can include a range of advantages. A legatee's inheritance is usually limited to personal property, distinct from real estate or land inheritance.
Beneficiaries are often named in contracts or legal documents where benefits are designated. Legatees are named in a will, and their inheritance is subject to the conditions set forth in that document.

Comparison Chart


Someone who receives benefits or advantages
Someone who inherits personal property through a will


Insurance, trusts, retirement plans
Wills and estate planning

Legal Limitation

Broader usage, not limited to inheritance
Specifically linked to inheritance in wills

Type of Benefits

Varied, including monetary, services, or rights
Personal property inheritance


Named in contracts, policies, or legal documents
Named specifically in a will

Beneficiary and Legatee Definitions


A recipient of rights or privileges.
Employees are beneficiaries of the company's health insurance plan.


A recipient of bequeathed items excluding real estate.
As a legatee, she inherited her grandmother's jewelry.


A person who gains benefits from something.
She is the primary beneficiary of her father's life insurance policy.


Someone named in a will to receive personal belongings.
The family friend was surprisingly included as a legatee.


One who receives advantages from a trust or contract.
As a beneficiary, he received monthly payments from the trust.


A person who inherits personal property through a will.
The antique clock was left to her as a legatee.


An individual entitled to profits or proceeds.
The charity was named as a beneficiary in her will.


An individual designated to receive specific assets in a will.
He was named legatee of his uncle's book collection.


Someone who is favored by an action or policy.
Students are the beneficiaries of the new scholarship fund.


A beneficiary of personal assets as dictated by a will.
The legatee received various art pieces as per the will.


One that receives a benefit
I am the beneficiary of your generosity.


The inheritor of a legacy.


The recipient of funds, property, or other benefits, as from an insurance policy or trust.


(legal) One who receives a legacy.


(Ecclesiastical) The holder of a benefice.


One to whom a legacy is bequeathed.


Someone to whom a legacy is bequeathed


What is a legatee?

A legatee is a person who inherits personal property under a will.

Can a legatee be an organization?

Yes, a legatee can be an organization, especially if personal property is bequeathed to a charity or institution in a will.

Can a beneficiary be a legatee?

Yes, a beneficiary can be a legatee if they are receiving personal property through a will.

What is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is someone who receives benefits or advantages from something, especially a trust, will, or life insurance policy.

Are beneficiaries always related to the will-maker?

Not necessarily. Beneficiaries can be relatives, friends, organizations, or charities, not just family members.

Can a legatee be a minor?

Yes, a legatee can be a minor, but legal mechanisms might be required to manage the property until they come of age.

Can there be multiple beneficiaries or legatees?

Yes, both wills and other legal documents can name multiple beneficiaries or legatees.

How is a legatee chosen?

A legatee is chosen by the individual who drafts the will.

What happens if a beneficiary or legatee dies?

If a beneficiary or legatee dies, their portion of the inheritance can either pass to their heirs or be redistributed according to the document's terms.

How is a beneficiary different from a heir?

A beneficiary is specifically named in a document like a will or insurance policy, while an heir is entitled to inheritance by law, typically due to family relation.

How is a beneficiary chosen?

A beneficiary is chosen by the person who creates the will, trust, or insurance policy.

Is a beneficiary always part of a will?

No, beneficiaries can also be part of trusts, insurance policies, or any other arrangements where benefits are designated.

Can a legatee refuse an inheritance?

Yes, a legatee can refuse or disclaim an inheritance.

Are beneficiaries and legatees public information?

In the case of wills, this information becomes public once the will is probated. For other documents like trusts or insurance policies, it may remain private.

Can a beneficiary or legatee be changed?

Yes, the person who creates the will, trust, or policy can usually change beneficiaries or legatees.

What rights do legatees have?

Legatees have the right to receive the personal property bequeathed to them in the will.

What rights do beneficiaries have?

Beneficiaries have the right to receive what was designated to them and can sometimes request information about the estate or trust.

Can a person be both a beneficiary and a legatee in the same will?

Yes, a person can be named both a beneficiary (of general assets) and a legatee (of specific personal property) in the same will.

Can a beneficiary also be an executor?

Yes, a beneficiary can also be an executor of a will.

How are disputes among beneficiaries or legatees resolved?

Disputes are typically resolved through legal processes, potentially involving probate court.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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