When someone in your family passes away, and you were not close to that person, it can cause you to feel mixed emotions. There may be a sense of relief, a feeling of guilt, sometimes anger, and possibly confusion. The truth is, no one can tell you how to feel, or how not to feel when dealing with the death of a family member. Depending on the situation and how strained the relationship was, it’s possible to feel all those emotions. But despite the nature of the relationship, the family member still included you in the inheritance. You have several options to consider as you try to navigate how you feel and how to deal with the inheritance.
Claiming the Inheritance
One option is to simply accept the inheritance, along with every emotion you may experience being tied to the deceased. If you choose to accept the inheritance, you must also choose not to accept the negative emotions you may feel because of the memory of the person. You will need to do the work to deal with that emotional hurdle and free yourself from any discomfort associated with the person.
You may decide to use the inheritance to invest in yourself, or to secure your family’s future, or your children’s future. If you don’t want the inheritance connected to your family, you could choose to donate it to a local charity or organization that resonates with your values. Whatever you decide to do, make sure maintaining optimal emotional health is your number one priority. If keeping the inheritance does not feel good, you should consider disclaiming the assets.
Refusing the Inheritance
Refusing the inheritance is a viable option if you cannot think of a positive way to accept the inheritance without incurring any additional emotional damage and responsibility. Whether you choose to refuse all or part of the inheritance, the correct legal term is “disclaiming.” This process must be followed exactly for tax purposes, or you could be liable for taxes on property you did not want. Therefore, you could be adding to your emotional damage with additional financial responsibilities.
If you are the primary beneficiary of an asset and you disclaim it, it is then passed down to the next person listed as the beneficiary. If there are no additional beneficiaries, the asset will be passed to another heir determined by state law.
You should consider speaking to an estate lawyer or financial advisor to help guide you through the process because there may be laws that are specific to your state. To officially refuse an inheritance, you will need to file a signed and notarized written disclaimer with the probate court that states your refusal to accept the inheritance. You will also need to swear that you will receive no benefits from the inheritance before or after you refuse it; otherwise, you could incur some legal issues with the IRS.
Once you file the disclaimer in court, that decision is permanent. You no longer have an influence on how the inheritance is distributed. No matter how you arrive at the decision to disclaim the inheritance, it is important to have a support system to assist you through this transitional period. Be open, and allow yourself to be settled in your decision, and to grieve and experience any emotions attached. Take the time needed to process your emotions and take care of yourself.