What are your options if you inherit an asset that you don’t want?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2023 | Estate Planning

It’s not uncommon for people to draft their wills and other estate plan documents without consulting family members and others about whether they want and/or can use the assets they’re leaving them. As a result, you may have recently come into possession of an asset that isn’t something you’re interested in keeping.

Smaller, relatively inexpensive items are easy enough to give away or sell if you don’t want them. But what if you’ve inherited a home, car, boat or other large physical asset that you don’t want and don’t have the time to clean, fix up and sell? These asset types can be especially inconvenient if you live halfway across the country or more from where the asset is currently located.

How to disclaim an inheritance

Fortunately, you can decline – or “disclaim” – an inheritance. This opportunity will relieve you of all responsibility for it. Under the law, disclaiming an asset will render your circumstances as though you never received it. When you disclaim an inheritance, it will go to any contingent beneficiary the deceased person may have listed. If they didn’t list a contingent beneficiary, it will go back to the estate to be dealt with by the estate’s personal representative.

It’s crucial to understand how to go about disclaiming an inheritance under Washington law. The first step you’ll want to take involves notifying the estate’s personal representative. You typically can only disclaim an asset that you haven’t taken possession of or used. Once you’ve contacted the representative, they can provide you with further guidance.

If you disclaim an asset, you won’t get to choose who will get it. That challenge will need to be worked out by the personal representative and the probate court. If you want to take a small item you’ve inherited and give it to a sibling or someone else who wants it, you can certainly do that. But be aware that federal gift taxes may apply if it’s very valuable.

If you’re considering disclaiming an asset, having legal guidance can always help you do so within the constraints of the law. Making this effort can help save you and the estate’s personal representative unnecessary complications.