Although most of us think of the death of a family member or loved one as an emotional event, the reality is that there are a number of practical and legal ramifications of a death as well. Among those is the need to distribute the assets left behind in the decedent’s estate. If you have been notified that you are a beneficiary of an estate, or you believe you are a potential heir of an estate, you may be wondering “ How long will it take to actually receive my inheritance ? ” Like most people, however, you may be hesitant to ask the question for fear of sounding insensitive or greedy. The question though is a valid one and one that is pondered, if not actually asked, by most beneficiaries/heirs.
As is often the case with estate planning issues, there is no universal answer to the question. Moreover, the best way to get a good idea how long it will take before you will receive your specific inheritance is to consult with the estate planning attorney handling the decedent’s estate. If you prefer not to do that, however, you may be able to get a general idea by understanding the factors that will impact how long it takes to get your inheritance.
First and foremost you need to know if your inheritance is made up of probate or non-probate assets. The reason for this is that probate assets are required to go through the probate process whereas non-probate assets bypass probate. Therefore, non-probate assets are available to the named beneficiary shortly after the death of a decedent. Some common non-probate assets include:
·Proceeds of a life insurance policy
·Assets held in a trust
·Property held jointly with rights of survivorship
·Assets held in an account with a “payable on death” or “transfer on death” (POD or TOD) designation
·Certain assets held in a retirement or pension plan
If your inheritance is made up of probate assets, and the estate is required to go through formal probate, you can expect to wait a minimum of six months and ten days in the State of Missouri. The reason for this is that the probate rules require probate to remain open that long to allow creditors of the estate to file claims against the estate. It may take significantly longer than the minimum time for the probate process to conclude; however, it cannot take less than that amount of time.
If, however, the estate is small enough, it may qualify for an alternative to formal probate. Estates with total assets valued at less than $40,000 and that meet all the requirements, may use a Small Estate Certificate in lieu of formal probate. This may allow the distribution of estate assets just 30 days after the decedent’s death.
If you have additional questions or concerns about an expected inheritance, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.