How Long Does It Take To Get My Inheritance?
If your parent or another close family member recently passed away, you may have received an inheritance. Amid the mourning and personal difficulties you may be going through at this time, there may also be legal and financial complexities in receiving the assets that your loved one intended to give you upon their death.
How long does it normally take to receive your inheritance? It varies greatly between situations. A major contributing factor is the legal form that your inheritance takes. Depending on how the deceased planned their estate, it may
- Pass through a will,
- Pass through rules pre-determined by the state if there is no will,
- Pass through the rules governing the particular asset or account itself.
If there is a will – 6 to 9 months
A will is a legal document created by the deceased before death, which includes their intentions for how they wish their assets to be distributed after death. A valid will needs to meet the legal requirements as set by the state governing it and will go through a process (probate) to both determine the will’s authenticity, requirements, and instructions for the distribution of assets.
During this time the assets will generally not be accessible or usable, except in certain cases by the immediate possessory – which in simple terms is the person(s) that has the right to immediate use and occupancy of the property. For example, the deceased’s house may continue to be occupied by the family that was living there at the time of death.
If there is no will – 6 to 9 months
If the deceased did not have a will then the deceased’s assets will go through the intestate probate process i.e. the court will rely on the state’s default rules to distribute the assets. It will use a methodical public process to determine all potential family members, after which the assets will be distributed.
Probate usually takes at least six to nine months to settle. If there are significant challenges, complications, or uncertainties, then the probate process could take significantly longer as litigation and investigation take place.
You will notice that the time frame for will vs. no will is more or less the same. This is because in both situations the court needs to first catalog all of the assets in the deceased’s estate, as well as allow time for challenges, before distribution.
One way of avoiding the probate process and reducing both time and potential legal challenges is through property rules governing the asset itself. Often property can be written so that it will pass automatically to a designated beneficiary upon the owner’s passing, such as in the case of a bank account or life insurance. These methods normally mean that the inheritance will be distributed instantly upon providing proof of death to the entity in control of the asset.
Jointly held property
Certain jointly held property can be designed so that the joint owner’s interest will pass to the other joint owner upon death, rather than passing on to another heir.
Trusts are a common estate planning tool. A trust is an independent legal entity with designated beneficiaries. Trusts usually derive the income they pay out from a core asset base from the deceased’s estate. The trust’s asset base is then managed by a trustee, either appointed by the deceased or by the court.
The benefit of creating specific rules to govern a particular piece of property is that it can save significant time and legal complexity in distributing one’s assets after death. The disadvantages of this are that these property rules are often difficult to change and they can be complicated and expensive to set up.
When receiving your inheritance the primary factor affecting how long and complicated the process will be is the form that your inheritance takes. Ilegal challenges by other parties who lay claim to the asset and potential ambiguities in the deceased’s documents can extend the process significantly.
It is important to seek legal counsel and financial planning advice to help you understand how to navigate the estate planning process both before and after death so as to minimize the associated delays and complications.
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