When Will Heirs Receive an Inheritance After Probate?

By Regan Rondinelli-Haberek

Probate is the process by which a court authenticates an individual's will, and grants a personal representative the authority to marshal and distribute the estate's assets. Probate typically lasts many months, but when you receive your inheritance depends on many factors.

Opening Probate

The probate process begins when the decedent's original will, along with supporting documents, is presented to the court. Required supporting documents differ by state. For instance, in New York, a petition must be submitted detailing all interested parties and all assets known at the time of filing. As administration of the estate progresses, additional documents must be filed with the court, such as an inventory of assets. If these documents are not properly completed, they will be returned by the court for correction, delaying administration of the estate. Filing accurately executed documents can make sure the process goes forward in a timely manner.

Notification of Interested Parties

Generally, all individuals named as beneficiaries need to be notified that probate has been opened. Additionally, anyone who's not named in the will but who would typically inherit under state law in the absence of a will -- a child, for example -- must be notified. This notification process can often be the most lengthy part of probate. Many times individuals who must be notified are scattered throughout the country and abroad, making them difficult to locate. Also, when someone is unexpectedly left out of a will, she may feel slighted or suspect some wrongdoing. This can result in the will being contested in court, which can lengthen the probate process.

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Statutes of Limitation

Once the will has been accepted for probate, there's a certain length of time during which claims on the estate must be presented. A creditor has a right to be paid from the proceeds of the estate, but he has only a certain amount of time, usually less than one year, to present his claim. This time limit is important for the timing of inheritances. If inheritances are distributed before this time limit has expired, and a creditor comes forward with a valid claim, the executor may be held personally liable for this debt. This means that the executor must wait until the time for creditors to present their claims has expired. You can check with your local probate court for the appropriate time limit in your state.

The Nature of Assets in an Estate

The nature of your inheritance may also affect when you receive it. For instance, many times an estate will consist of one or more bank accounts and a piece of real property. In this instance, probate should be relatively simple and you will typically receive your inheritance within the year. However, if assets are more complicated -- for example, perhaps the decedent owned the asset with other individuals -- the process can become more lengthy.

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Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?

References

Related articles

Are There Time Limits in Will Probate?

Like most fields of law, probate is riddled with court-imposed deadlines and structured timelines. Most are designed to keep the process moving along in a timely manner so an estate can close within a reasonable period of time. Others prevent creditors from harassing heirs and beneficiaries years after a loved one’s death. But even with these safeguards, the probate of a large, complicated estate can be a long, drawn-out process.

The Meaning of Denied Probate

State probate courts, sometimes known as surrogate’s courts, are charged with probating decedents’ wills. But before the probate process commences, courts must ensure that each will is legally enforceable. If a probate court finds a will to be defective or invalid, the will can be denied probate, in which case, the estate will be distributed in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws instead.

Probate Laws in Missouri

When someone dies in Missouri or dies owning property in Missouri, Missouri’s probate laws outline the procedures for processing the decedent’s estate, including determining whether the decedent’s will is valid, how to prove its validity in court, and who receives a decedent's property if he died without a valid will. These probate laws are located in Missouri Revised Statues, Chapter 474, formally known as the Missouri Probate Code.

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