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When a Beneficiary Does Not Want to Be Found

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By: HeirSearch.

Receiving an inheritance from a long-lost relative is generally considered to be positive news. However, the reality of such information is different for some. Not all beneficiaries of a will or intestacy (passing without a will) are keen to claim what’s left to their name.

The successful distribution of assets is a complicated process, as many executors or personal representatives administering an estate often find. The first challenge is locating said entitled beneficiaries. In some cases, the beneficiaries prove hard to find.

When a Beneficiary Has Been Found but Does Not Respond

Often, personal representatives are aware of the identity of a beneficiary and their whereabouts. However, despite repeated attempts at contacting them, the beneficiary may not respond to the representative. This state of “unknown” occurs when the beneficiary neither accepts nor officially disclaims their entitlement to a share in an estate.

An absentee beneficiary is more likely in intestacy cases where multiple beneficiaries are made aware of an inheritance from a distant relative whom they’ve never met or knew existed.

When a Beneficiary Does Not Accept Their Inheritance

The act of refusing an inheritance is often referred to as a disclaimer. Much like an unsolicited phone call or visit, some may feel uncomfortable accepting an inheritance from an unknown or unfamiliar source. Some beneficiaries fear they may be the target of a fraud or scam and cannot be reassured. When a beneficiary is unwilling to respond, the most common solution involves paying the funds into court or a charity in exchange for an indemnity.

Another common reason for disclaiming an inheritance is a beneficiary’s unwillingness to pay taxes on the assets. When a beneficiary is located but is uninterested in the estate, they must disclaim it. Disclaiming requires a written and irrevocable refusal to accept the assets provided within nine months.

What Happens to an Inheritance That a Beneficiary Doesn’t Claim?

A disclaimer may result in the acceleration of interest to other heirs in line or surviving spouses and children. Intestate laws vary by state, but in the case of no surviving spouse or children, the asset passes to other surviving relatives or family members (prioritizing immediate relatives over distant relatives).

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