If you have recently lost a close loved one you are likely going through a period of grief and heightened emotions. At some point, however, you may also begin to consider the practical and legal ramifications of your loved one’s death. For example, you may begin to wonder what your loved one left you in his or her Will. Because you may be reluctant to ask about your inheritance for fear that asking may sound insensitive, you may start wondering “How can I find out what my inheritance is?”
There are a number of reasons why an heir or beneficiary would want to know what was left to him/her when a loved one dies. The death of a close family member is often a time of great uncertainty. Knowing what your inheritance will be takes away some of that uncertainty. It is important to note, however, that there is no way to find out the contents of a Last Will and Testament for someone who is still alive unless the Testator (the person who executed the Will) chooses to share that information with you. After death, however, a Will becomes public record once it has been admitted to court for probate. Therefore, anyone may request a copy of a Will once it has been admitted to probate. Often, a Will may be obtained through an online search of the public records in the county where the decedent’s estate is being probated. If not, it can usually be obtained through a request in writing.
The details of your inheritance, however, may not be found in the decedent’s Will. Many people choose to include a trust agreement in their estate plan. When that is the case, your inheritance may be found in the trust terms instead of in the decedent’s Will. As a beneficiary of a trust, you should hear from the Trustee of the trust shortly after the Maker’s (the person who created the trust) death. The Trustee has a duty to the beneficiaries to communicate with them and to abide by the terms of the trust with regard to distributions from the trust.
In the event that your loved one died intestate, or without leaving behind a valid Last Will and testament, the New York laws of intestate succession will determine if you are an heir to the estate and, if so, what percentage of the estate you will receive.
If you have additional questions or concerns about a potential inheritance, or about estate planning in general, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.