Probate & Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries: FAQ

Who inherits assets?

If the decedent passed with a valid will, the will would most likely dictate who inherits what property. 

If the decedent did not pass with a will, the laws of intestacy would dictate. Each state has its own laws for intestate succession of assets. In most cases, the laws of intestacy pass the property to the decedent's next of kin.

What if assets have been wrongfully distributed?

In situations where assets have been wrongfully distributed, or you believe there was fraud, we highly recommend speaking with an attorney.

While we are more than happy to assist you with petitioning to Probate a decedent's Estate, our services do not include dealing with potential fraud or recovering assets that have been wrongfully distributed.

What happens to assets after they have been distributed?

After the assets have been distributed to the heirs, they are no longer governed by the probate process and belong to whoever inherits them. 

This means the heirs can sell, gift, or keep the assets however they wish. If any assets have joint owners, all owners will likely need to agree with taking any action.

What are my rights as a Beneficiary or Heir of an Estate?

First, we'll define what it means to be an Heir vs a Beneficiary:

Heir: Commonly referred to as an Heir-at-Law. This is someone that is next of kin to the deceased and would inherit under the intestate (when the decedent has no Will) laws of the state.

Beneficiary/Devisee/Legatee: These terms all refer to someone named in the Will that will specifically inherit from the Estate.

Both Heirs and Beneficiaries have the right to be informed of the following:

  • When the Probate process has begun.
  • The progress and/or actions of the Estate.
  • A full and accurate account of the Estate.

What forms do the heirs need to sign?

The forms and signing requirements vary from state to state but often consist of the following types of forms: 

  • Waiver of Bond: If all heirs sign waivers of bond, the court will often waive the bond or set the minimal bond. Signatures on waivers for bond are not required but are often helpful.
  • Waiver of Notice: In some cases, heirs have the option to waive their right to formal notice, all this means is that they don’t wish to receive official mail notifying them of various actions during the probate process. Signatures on waivers for notice are not required but are often helpful.
  • Waiver of Accounting: The accounting is a formal outline of the finances and how they were handled during the probate process. Accounting can be beneficial to account for changes in assets and provide insight on the actions taken. However, in straightforward cases where there is no concern or discrepancies, it may make sense for heirs to waive the requirement. Signatures on waivers of accounting are not required but are often helpful (not accepted in all states).
  • Consent: Consent forms are used to indicate an interested party has reviewed the information in the petition (or other filings), and agrees and consents to the document’s contents. Some states require all interested parties to sign a consent before anyone is appointed
  • Renunciation/Waiver of Right to Appointment: A renunciation or Waiver of Right to appointment is used when there is an individual with equal or higher priority for appointment. This form is used to decline an appointment formally and often includes the option to nominate someone else to act. 
  • Receipt: These forms are often used when assets are distributed to heirs or beneficiaries to verify that they have received the assets they are entitled to. While not all courts require these forms, it’s a best practice to have heirs sign off verifying assets have been distributed so that all actions are accounted for. 
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