Inheritance law refers to legal protocol surrounding estate management of a person who has died. Laws protecting inheritance property have been in place for forty years and are governed by the Uniform Probate Code.
Not all states implement inheritance law according to the Uniform Probate Code. At present, eighteen states have adopted UPC in its entirety. The remaining thirty two have adopted portions of the code.
Inheritance laws are necessary to determine what happens to financial assets and real property owned by decedents. While inheritance law varies by state, most follow a similar protocol. Every estate must undergo the probate process unless decedents place inheritance property inside a trust.
Probated estates are managed by an estate administrator who is responsible for all facets of settling the estate. Probate executors can enlist help from a wills and probate attorney or estate planner.
Estate administration duties can include funeral arrangements, securing personal property, maintaining real estate holdings, paying outstanding debts, obtaining property appraisals, filing tax returns, and distribution of inheritance property.
When individuals die without leaving a will (intestate), an estate executor is appointed and confirmed by a probate judge. Administrators must adhere to probate laws in the decedents' primary state of residence. Intestate estates often require legal assistance; particularly if inheritance property is quite valuable.
Decedents can bequeath gifts to whomever they desire within their last will. Wills are also used to provide burial directions and establish guardianship for minor children. Individuals wanting to disinherit direct lineage heirs can write them out of their will. In essence, last wills allow decedents to have their final word.
Heirs can contest a will if they believe they are rightfully entitled to inheritance property. Defending a contested will can cost thousands in legal fees and extend the probate process for months.
The probate personal representative is released from estate duties once inheritance is distributed. Inheritance money and property might be subject to federal and state taxation. Federal estate tax is undergoing considerable change and repealed for 2010.
Inheritance tax is assessed at the state level. At present ten states impose inheritance tax, and forty nine states impose estate tax. Texas is the only state that does not impose estate or inheritance tax.
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