What You Should Know About Inheritance

When a person dies, his or her estate is distributed to surviving loved ones through the process of inheritance. Inheritances can take many forms, including cash endowments, stocks, real estate and personal property. However, how these assets are distributed, and to whom they are given, depends in large part on the decedent. For instance, those who choose not to plan their estates are said to die intestate, which means their assets will be distributed – not necessarily according to their wishes – but based on state law. Alternatively, a person who chose to draft a will or establish a trust, can specify who will receive which asset, which allows that specific individual the power to leave everything to one person, divide assets between relatives, or leave a large donation to a charity.

Of these two scenarios, most prefer the latter, as it gives them the ability to leave assets to beneficiaries that will be helped the most from their gift. Unfortunately, many fail to create wills or establish trusts – leaving the fate of their possessions and assets in the hands of a probate court. For help ensuring this does not happen to you, please contact a member of our dedicated estate planning legal team today.

Inheritance Without a Will  

Those who fail to make a will or establish a trust, leave the fate of their assets in the hands of a probate court, which distributes property according to a predetermined standard. For example, when a person passes away without a will and is survived by a spouse, or children, the deceased’s assets will be split down the middle, with half going to the surviving spouse and the other half going to the couple’s children. However, in the event a couple does not have any surviving children, the decedent’s surviving spouse will inherit the deceased’s entire estate. On the other hand, if the deceased was not survived by a partner, but the couple did have children, then his or her assets would be divided between those children or their descendants.

The process of distributing an inheritance after a person dies intestate becomes much more complicated when the individual did not have any surviving descendants or a spouse. In these cases, assets could potentially go to the decedent’s parents and siblings, or a deceased sibling’s descendants. If a person has no surviving family members, then the estate will be handed over to the state.

Inheritance with a Will

 While most people don’t enjoy thinking about their own deaths, planning your estate can ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, in a way that will help your loved ones the most. For instance, testators have the option of drafting a will, in which all assets are distributed to specific beneficiaries. However, the process of distributing inheritances can only begin after the will is submitted to the probate court. After which, the court will review it, authorize an executor and if everything is in order, will legally transfer the assets to the listed beneficiaries. Testators can also: Choose to pay out an inheritance in small installments, rather than in one large sum; can restrict the inheritance to certain uses; and can decide when their beneficiaries will receive their inheritances – even if it is years after the decedent’s death.

Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys

 If you were left an inheritance by a loved one, or are interested in beginning the process of planning your own estate, please contact the dedicated estate planning legal team at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by calling 847-325-5559 today.

Updated as of July 2019
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