When do heirs receive the assets?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:35 pm
If an estate goes to probate, which is a court proceeding to validate a will and determine the distribution of assets in accordance with it, heirs (airs) may have to wait a year or more to receive assets. In the case of life insurance proceeds or trusts, the waiting period for beneficiaries will not be as long because probate isn’t involved. If you have an interest in a decedent's (dee-CEE-dent’s) probate estate, consider filing with the court and the executor a demand for prior notice of any action regarding the estate, such as property sales. The waiting period before distribution of property, even if not required by law, is often criticized, but it has practical advantages. Creditors of the decedent then have a chance to present their claims. If claims aren’t made in writing to the executor (ig-ZEHK-you-ter) within this period they may be barred. Probate requires time because the court must appoint an executor who must then review claims and first pay those deemed valid. A rejected claimant has a limited time to file a lawsuit against the estate. If that time limit expires, the claim is dead. When all claims, debts, and expenses have been paid, the remainder of the property is distributed by the executor as the will directs. The executor generally has the discretion to distribute the beneficiaries' shares in cash or in kind, but the will can specify otherwise. Finally, before distribution, the executor must file a report in court.
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