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Is it possible to refuse an inheritance?

When a person learns that they will be receiving some manner of inheritance from the estate of a loved one who recently passed, chances are good that they'll feel mixed emotions. On the one hand, they are likely still mourning the recent loss of their friend or family member and unconcerned with material things, while on the other hand that might be excited by the prospect of receiving some money and/or property.

While this is perfectly understandable, it's important for people in this scenario to know that they might feel another emotion: conflict. Indeed, while they might be honored that their loved one was kind enough to leave them a gift, they might also wonder if they would be better off without it.

Is it possible for a person to refuse to accept a gift made via inheritance?

The law provides people with the opportunity to refuse to accept a gift from a person's estate via a legal mechanism known as a disclaimer.

If you decide to disclaim an inheritance, do you get to decide how it should be divided?

The person who decides to disclaim an inheritance has no say in what happens to it. Indeed, it will be distributed according to the terms of the will or, if the person died intestate (i.e., without a will) according to state law.

What does a person who wants to disclaim an inheritance actually have to do?

While the laws of each state vary, the Internal Revenue Service indicates that the following requirements must be met in order for a disclaimer to be considered valid:

  • The disclaimer must be in writing.
  • The disclaimer must be delivered to the executor/trustee within nine months of the person's passing.
  • The person filing the disclaimer must neither accept nor benefit in any way from the assets they are seeking to disclaim

We'll continue this discussion in our next post, examining the reasons why someone would want to disclaim an inheritance.

In the meantime, if you have questions about this or any other estate planning issue, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

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