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What’s involved in turning down an inheritance?

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2023 | Estate Planning

Your recently deceased loved one had a detailed estate plan. The problem is that they didn’t do much consultation with family members to see if they really wanted certain assets before they bequeathed them. Unless those assets involve money, stocks, mutual funds or savings bonds, they can sometimes be more trouble than they’re worth.

It’s one thing to inherit a vintage train set or a collection of Hummel figurines you don’t want and can rather easily sell or donate. What if you were left a house in an area you don’t want to live that needs thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs and probably some asbestos remediation before you could even think about selling it? Even selling it “as-is” to a house flipper wouldn’t be worth the time and effort.

Disclaiming an inheritance

You can decline the inheritance. That’s known as “disclaiming” it. You need to make that decision rather quickly – especially if it’s a home and there are property taxes and insurance to think about. You also have to do it according to the  Florida Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Act.

To formally disclaim any asset you’ve inherited, you must notify the estate executor, if one has been named. If there’s no executor yet, you need to notify the probate court handling the estate by completing the necessary form.

It’s also important to remember that typically you aren’t allowed to disclaim an asset if you’ve used it. For example, you likely can’t stay in the house for a couple of weeks and then disclaim it.

Can you designate the disclaimed asset to go to another family member?

Once you disclaim an asset, you have no control over whom it goes to. If the deceased listed a contingent beneficiary, it goes to them. (They, too, have the right to disclaim it.)  If there’s no contingent beneficiary, it’s returned to the estate and disbursed as designated in the will along with other items not listed or claimed.

Before deciding to disclaim an inheritance, it’s wise to do a bit of due diligence to determine the value, what you could get if you sell it, how much time and effort would be involved and whether there’s someone else you can give or donate it to. It’s wise to seek legal guidance to help ensure that you make the best decision for you and comply with the law.