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The whys and hows of transferring inherited assets

When a person dies, his or her spouse and children often have inheritance rights. Many Florida residents may be unaware of how these rights work. When a person dies without a will, the money and assets will go to the spouse or next of kin – children, siblings, parents, even cousins or nieces and nephews. These may not be the intended heirs, which is why some people choose to transfer their inheritance rights.

An example is a man dying without a written will. While alive, he orally discussed with his family his intention to leave half of everything he owned to his long-time girlfriend. Because he died without a will, everything would legally go to his family. Because he was not married to the girlfriend, she would not be given anything and would have no rights to the estate. However, in this case, the family members can transfer their inheritance rights to the girlfriend so that the man’s final wishes can be carried out.

When a trust is involved, however, the process is a little more complicated. If the trust offers a power of appointment, then the beneficiary can exercise this tool to transfer the assets to another person. Without, this power of appointment, however, transferring inheritance rights can be next to impossible because most trusts include anti-alienation laws that prevent this. But in some cases, the beneficiary may be able to renounce his or her rights within nine months after the person dies.

For the most part, the surviving spouse automatically has the right to receive a deceased spouse’s property. Children, however, do not have this same right. If a child is omitted from a will, state law does protect them, though. If a child is to be purposely omitted from a will, the will must explicitly state this.

Source: Lake County News, “Estate Planning: Transferring inheritance rights,” Dennis Fordham, May 17, 2013