If you recently lost a parent, grandparent, or other close loved one you are undoubtedly going through an emotional and confusing time period. Along with the grief and sadness you may be feeling, you may also be concerned about the practical and legal issues that surround a death. One question you likely have, but are hesitant to ask anyone, is “ How do I know what my inheritance is ? ” Although this is a perfectly reasonable, and understandable, question to ask, most people are worried that asking it will make them appear callous or materialistic. There are, however, a number of perfectly understandable and legitimate reasons why a beneficiary or heir of an estate would want to know what to expect from the decedent’s estate.
First, it is important to note that you cannot access someone’s Last Will and Testament while they are alive unless they choose to share it with you. A Will only becomes public record, and therefore obtainable to anyone who requests a copy, after it has been admitted to probate following the death of the Testator (the person who executed the Will). Obtaining a copy of a decedent’s Will can sometimes be accomplished online by finding the appropriate county court’s website and doing a records search. Usually, a Will is probated in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death or in a county where the decedent owned property.
Your inheritance, however, may not be found in the decedent’s Will. If the decedent created a trust agreement prior to death, or a testamentary trust that became effective after death, the details of your inheritance may be found there instead of in the decedent’s Will. In that case, the Trustee of the trust is obligated to communicate with you and let you know that you are a beneficiary of the trust. The Trustee will also be the best source for information regarding the terms of the trust, or exactly what you will receive, and when you will receive it, as a beneficiary of the trust.
Finally, if the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, and no trust was established by the decedent, the Missouri laws of intestate succession will determine if you are an heir to the estate and, if so, what percentage of the estate assets you will inherit. The value of the estate, in that case, will not be known until all the assets have been identified and inventoried by the Personal Representative of the estate.
Of course, the easiest way to find out where you stand as a beneficiary or heir of an estate is to consult with an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney. Contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.