By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
January 14, 2021
How Do You Know If Someone Left You Money in a Will?
A well-off relative recently died. After experiencing an initial bout of grief, you start wondering: what if they left you money in their will?
It feels wrong to bring something like that up with the immediate family. But you also want to know. Is there anything that you can do to find out if you were included in the will? What happens if you discover that you were left money?
This is a situation that many people have contacted our office about over the years. So you’re not alone. Here’s advice on how to learn if you’re someone’s beneficiary and how to claim what’s yours.
How to Find Out If Someone Left You Money in Their Will
There are three main ways to find out if someone left you money after their death.
1. Reach out to their personal representative (executor) or attorney.
This is the fastest way to find out. The executor is the person charged with overseeing the probate process, starting with locating the will. This individual often works with an estate planning attorney.
There are many cases where you may not know who the executor or attorney is. Or maybe you have an idea of who it might be, but you don’t want to bother them in a time of grieving.
Fortunately, there is another option for finding out if you were left money by the person who has passed away.
2. Contact the Court Clerk’s Office.
The first question many people have is: how do I find out if they left a will at all?
When someone dies and leaves a valid will, most often it must be filed in the court clerk’s office of the country where they lived. Once it’s filed (which usually happens fairly quickly), it becomes a public document.
So, get the contact information for the deceased’s court clerk’s office and stop by or give them a call.
In some cases, they may be able to mail a copy of the will to you – for a fee, of course. In some areas, you may even be able to conduct a search online.
3. Learn your state’s Intestacy Laws.
This one only applies if the deceased did not have a will. If you find yourself in that situation, it is still possible that you might inherit money or property – if you are one of the closest living blood relatives.
Florida’s Intestacy Laws on this are complicated, but generally speaking, people inherit in this order:
- siblings (and descendants of siblings)
- aunts and uncles (and their descendants)
That’s not the entirety of the law. So it’s a good idea to you speak with a knowledgeable Florida estate planning attorney before making plans.
What to Do If You Learn that Someone Left You Something in a Will
How do you proceed if you discover someone left you money after they died?
Be aware that the process will likely take several months.
First, the executor has to pay outstanding debts and prepare and file necessary taxes. Creditors must be notified during the process. And then they have a window of time to submit any claims against the estate.
After this is completed, money and assets are given to beneficiaries.
Speak to the personal representative.
This is the individual responsible for the estate. You can ask them for the will and about any settlement meeting(s) that may occur since you are a beneficiary in order for you to receive the inheritance.
Look into taxes.
While you don’t get taxed for inheriting in most cases, you do get taxed on your earnings.
For example, you can be taxed on the interest that money earned in a savings account. Likewise, you can be taxed based on what you do with the money.
Talk to an attorney.
This isn’t required if you are a beneficiary on a will. However, many people find it to be helpful, because the questions surrounding inheritances can be so complicated and confusing.
If you find out someone left you money and want a consultation with our office, give us a call.
Original Published 6/14/2018. Updated on 1/14/2021.
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