Believe it or not, we have clients to do not wish to accept their inheritance. Although extremely rare, there is actually no legal obligation to accept, and it’s completely okay to decline. There are often situations where it is best.
In a recent case, our client “Evette” lost her long-time boyfriend. They were never legally married but were practically husband and wife. Everyone knew them as a couple, including their family and friends. In this case, Ed did not have a Will. As we have discussed previously, non-married spouses do not legally inherit from the deceased partner. Under the laws of New York, Ed’s biological adult daughter would receive 100% of his estate. The daughter, acknowledging that Evette was for all intents and purposes the spouse, has opted to include Evette in the estate distribution.
Disclaimer of Inheritance Rights
Disclaimer is a fancy word for not accepting and forfeiting your share of the inheritance. In Evette’s example, the daughter could simply say “I don’t want anything to do with it. I do not accept.”
The pro is that the daughter signs one form and she is done with the estate. No one will bother her again. If you are estranged, which isn’t the case here, that may be the best route. This option is the least hassle, but it removes all control.
The con is that if you forfeit, you no longer have a say in anything. The default inheritance laws would kick in and the share would go to the next in line. In this case, Ed still has brothers, and by law it would go to them, which is not what he wanted.
Can I Give My Inheritance to Someone Else?
Sure, you can give your inheritance to someone else, but only once you receive it, which could be months or years after probate starts. The drawback is that there is much uncertainly. In this case, the daughter will be waiting for quite a while to receive the funds. In that time, she can simply change her mind about giving a share to Evette. Additionally, the daughter will need to stay involved in the probate process, whether she wants to or not.
Transferring an Inheritance by Executing an Assignment
In this case, an Assignment of Interest is the best option. Here, the daughter will sign a document agreeing to assign a percentage of her share to Evette.
Instead of waiting to see if the daughter will actually share the inheritance with the girlfriend, this this formality creates certainty and can help eliminate any issues that could arise between a family.