It’s a common misconception (fed by television shows and other works of fiction) that when a person dies testate (that is, having previously written a valid will), that those individuals who are named as beneficiaries in the will can expect to receive their inheritance – the property given to them under the terms of the will – in relatively short order. This is not always the case, however. In fact, depending on the complexities and challenges of a particular situation, there may be very little inheritance left over for the beneficiaries to receive. Why is this?
Administering an Estate is More Than Handing Out Property
If all that the administrator or executor of an estate had to do was to follow the terms of the will, then beneficiaries could rightfully expect that the administrator or executor would give them the property to which they are entitled soon after the testator (the person who wrote the will) dies. But this is not how the probate process works. Creditors and others who may have a claim to the decedent’s estate must be provided with an opportunity to assert those claims and, if their claims are found to be valid, collect on those claims. This can reduce the amount of assets that the estate has to divide amongst the heirs and beneficiaries and can increase the amount of time it takes in order for the administrator/executor to make that distribution.
Distributions to beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will (or heirs if the decedent died without a valid will in place) usually does not take place until toward the end of the probate process, after creditors and others have had a chance to file claims against the estate.
What If I Need To Get Ahold of My Loved One’s Property Right Away?
All this being said, it is not impossible for someone to obtain his or her inheritance (at least in part) before the end of the probate process. This requires the administrator/executor to file a motion with the probate court asking that an early or partial distribution be made of the estate’s property. In asking the court to do this, the administrator/executor must typically show the Court that this early distribution of property:
- Will not prejudice any creditor or potential creditor because the estate will still likely have enough assets to satisfy potential claims;
- Other beneficiaries or heirs either do not object to the early distribution or have been given an opportunity to challenge the early distribution; and/or
- There is a good and justifiable reason for permitting the early distribution.
Because the court is in charge of making sure the probate process is completed in an orderly fashion and in a way that respects the rights of heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors alike, the court may not allow an early distribution if the court believes some parties may be prejudiced or if the early distribution will have a negative impact on the value of the remainder of the estate or the administrator’s/executor’s ability to manage the remainder of the estate.
We Want to Explore Your Estate Planning Options With You
If you are concerned about whether your inheritance is being squandered or wasted, it is best to speak with an attorney right away about the actions you may be able to take. And if you are worried about your heirs and beneficiaries having quick access to their inheritances, speak with an estate planning attorney about options that may be available to you to avoid probate and get your assets and property into the hands of the people you want to have them sooner. Dawes Legal, LLC can help you do just this. Call our office today at (614) 733-9999 to learn more.