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An inheritance dispute occurs when the beneficiaries of a will disagree about how the person’s estate should be divided.

How long does an heir have to claim their inheritance?

The executor or trustee of the estate is responsible for informing beneficiaries of their inheritance and attempting to distribute it.

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the timeframe for claiming an inheritance varies from state to state.

Waiting to claim an inheritance you’ve been informed of, especially if a year or more has passed, can lead to problems.

For instance, others can make claims on the estate or initiate an heirship proceeding, resulting in assets being assigned to them. As a result, there may not be enough assets left to cover your inheritance if you wait too long to claim them.

Can heirs refuse inheritance?

Heirs have the right to refuse an inheritance, legally called a disclaimer of inheritance.

In this situation, the heir must submit a legal document formally refusing the inheritance to the executor or trustee of the estate. Typically, an heir should complete this document within nine months of the deceased’s death.

Additionally, the heir doesn’t get to determine who will receive it. Instead, the inheritance passes on to the next beneficiary in line.

Can a beneficiary lose their inheritance?

Some situations can result in someone not receiving the inheritance they anticipated, depending on the state’s laws. Some examples include:

  • If the parents had remarried, some assets may pass on to the deceased’s spouse regardless of the will. Additionally, when that spouse passes, the assets could then go to their children instead.
  • If there isn’t a will, state law can determine the beneficiaries and distribution of assets, regardless of any expressed wishes of the deceased.
  • The surviving spouse is often the beneficiary of 401K retirement accounts, even if another person is named as the beneficiary unless that spouse has signed a consent waiver before the deceased’s death.

Can creditors take your inheritance?

Your inheritance can be used to pay off a debt to a creditor.

For instance, the court will hear the case and determine what you owe if a creditor sues you. The court’s order may indicate that you use the assets from your inheritance to pay.

However, there are exceptions. For instance, the Homestead Exemption provides some protection against liens on inherited real estate.

An inheritance received through a spendthrift trust will protect it from claims by creditors because you can only use the assets when the trust agreement permits distribution.

Additionally, you can disclaim the inheritance, which would then transfer the inheritance to the next beneficiary in line.

What happens if an inheritance is not claimed?

Unclaimed inheritance typically passes to the next heir in line.

But, an unclaimed inheritance can also be turned over to the state through escheatment. The dormancy period, or specific amount of time that must pass for an asset to be considered abandoned varies based on the state and type of property involved.

However, you may still be able to claim these assets after escheatment if they’re still available.

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