It’s one of the most difficult times we face. The loss of a loved one. Their memory and their legacy live on. But their loss leaves a void that is felt deeply by many people.
In our line of work, we often help clients navigate the process of legacy planning and, after the loss of a loved one, the steps that are necessary to secure an inheritance. Our experience has shown the value of planning in ensuring a difficult time is not made even more difficult by confusion about the process, or perhaps disagreements about how certain assets are allocated.
THE FIRST STEP is for clients to have a clear will that is routinely reevaluated to incorporate updated preferences or even new members of the family. Often, the next step is for family members to learn about the process of securing the inheritance. A time of grief is not the time to begin learning about these steps. Better to think about it now, so you’re prepared for what’s ahead.
Let’s take the inheritance of property, for example. Even if an inheritance isn’t in a legally binding trust or will, you may have to go through the process of clearing the title of any inherited land or property through probate. Probate is the process of gathering all of a decedent’s assets and appropriately distributing them among inheritors and creditors.
When inherited property ends up in probate, you might be in for a wait — and unforeseen expenses — before you can fully claim the property. The state in which you live, the value of the inheritance and when you file will affect the timeline and costs.
In probate, nonliquid assets may have to be appraised. Examples include real property — land, homes and more — and personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles or art.
In many instances, a conversation with a trust advisor can provide valuable guidance about the simplest way to proceed through the process. This is helpful in limiting the expenses of the process and gaining the assistance of an attorney to file probate documents or prepare a deed.
Nothing can ever fill the void created by the loss of a loved one. But having a plan to honor their wishes can make a painful time much easier. You can find an advisor near you by visiting regions.com.
IN MOST CASES, THERE ARE FOUR STEPS:
- File a court petition and give notice to any other beneficiaries.
- Alert all known creditors of the estate once a court date is set and take inventory of the property.
- After the probate hearing, in which the distribution of assets has been determined, pay off all estate and funeral expenses as well as debts and taxes.
- Inheritors gain legal ownership of the property or properties.
George Smith is Vice President, Trust Advisor for Regions Bank Private Wealth Management. Contact him at George.C.Smith@Regions.com