How to Transfer Inheritance to a Sibling in Probate

By Tom Streissguth

When an individual dies, his property passes to his heirs as directed by his written will, in which he declares bequests of money, homes, land, investments and other assets to named beneficiaries. If no will exists, a probate court oversees the distribution of the decedent’s estate to the rightful heirs, usually family members, as determined by state law. During probate, it is possible for one sibling to transfer property to another under certain circumstances.

State Law and Inheritance

Heirs cannot change the terms of a written will before or after the death of the testator. Therefore, if a written will exists and it is being probated, the heirs must either accept the inheritance or disclaim it. If assets are disclaimed, the probate court will follow state law and distribute those assets to the other heirs. If your sibling is the only other primary beneficiary, she will inherit your disclaimed bequest.

Primary and Contingent Beneficiaries

You should familiarize yourself with the terms of the will before you attempt to affect its outcome. If your sibling is not named in the will, you will not be successful in transferring property to her by disclaiming the inheritance. Instead, your inheritance will go to the other primary beneficiaries named in the will. If contingent beneficiaries are named, they will also receive assets under conditions stipulated in the will. In the absence of a will, property is distributed as directed by state law, usually to the surviving spouse, if applicable, and children of the marriage (natural or adopted).

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If you wish to transfer inherited assets directly to a sibling, you must do so after the probate court has distributed the assets as directed in the will or according to state law. Instead of filing a disclaimer with the court, you’ll need to take possession of the assets and then transfer them to your sibling by gifting the assets outright or transferring title.


If you inherit property such as a house or car, the executor of the decedent's will is responsible for transferring title to you during probate. After you take possession, you may transfer title to your sibling by following the laws and procedures in your state. For example, to transfer a motor vehicle, you must present the title certificate, an affidavit of transfer, odometer statement and any other required forms to the Department of Motor Vehicles. This agency will issue a new title in your sibling's name.

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Related articles

What If an Heir Dies?

The impact of an heir’s death on the probate process depends a great deal on whether he is also a beneficiary. An heir is a relative entitled to inherit from the decedent by law -- heirs inherit when the decedent dies without a will. Beneficiaries are those individuals named in a decedent’s will to receive his property. They may or may not be related to him. An individual can be both an heir and a beneficiary when he's bequeathed property in a will and is also related to the decedent, so he would have stood to inherit even if the decedent had not left a will.

Estate Administrator Duties

When a person dies, his estate will likely go through the probate process, whether or not he left a will. During probate, the estate will be collected, debts paid and remaining assets distributed to beneficiaries. The person assigned the duty of managing the estate through this process is called an administrator or executor. Since state statutes govern estate administration, the administrator must follow state law regarding procedures and time frames.

What Happens When Someone Refuses to Accept Their Inheritance?

Not everyone is happy to receive an inheritance. Depending on your personal situation, you might elect to refuse or disclaim a bequest made to you by a loved one for any number of reasons. If you’re younger, the windfall might affect your eligibility for student aid, even if it's not payable to you immediately. If you’re older, it might prevent you from qualifying for Medicaid. Further, if you're already wealthy, an inheritance will increase your estate's value, which could mean your own estate will end up paying additional federal estate taxes when you die. The law recognizes these issues sometimes occur and you usually do not have to accept an inheritance if you don’t want to do so.

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