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How to Get Your California Inheritance

How do you get your inheritance in California? That can be a confusing question because it really depends on the type of assets you are inheriting. You may be receiving assets from a Trust, Will, life insurance, paid-on-death account, joint tenancy account, or others. Each asset has its own set of rules for how it transfers to you upon the death of someone else.

Assets Under a Trust

Let’s start with Trusts. If you are the beneficiary of a Trust, then you should be able to go to the Trustee and get your inheritance from the Trustee. Of course, the Trustee only controls assets that are held in the name of the Trust. If the Trust holds title to a house, but nothing else, then the Trustee can only transfer the house to you. Any other assets would need to pass under the rules set for that asset (more on that below). If the Trustee’s not making distributions, then you may have to go to court and as the court to order the Trustee to make a distribution. Whether the Trustee acts Willingly or not, you must follow the rules for Trusts to obtain your Trust assets.

Assets Under a Will

If you’re going to be receiving assets under a Will, then the Will has to go to probate. That means somebody must file a petition with the court to open probate, get the Will admitted, appoint the executor and then you have to go through the probate process, which is a whole court process in California where the passage of assets is supervised by the court and eventually you’ll get your assets out of the probate process. Probate takes more time, usually, to finish than a Trust distribution. And probates must be court-supervised, as opposed to Trust administrations that are handled outside of court (unless there is a problem). Yet, any asset that passes under a Will must go through the probate process.

Other Types of Assets Left to Beneficiaries

If what you’re receiving is a beneficiary designation type asset, like life insurance, then you’d have to go to the life insurance company. You must contact them and say: “I’m a beneficiary” and they Will send you some forms to fill out and return. Usually, the life insurance company will work directly with you to get you the money that you deserve as a beneficiary.

If you’re a joint tenant either on real property or on a bank account, then you can just deal with the joint tenancy laws. For real property, you would file a form called Affidavit – Death of Joint Tenant and that would put the world on notice, once you record that form, that the other joint tenant has now passed and you are the sole owner of the property as the surviving joint tenant.

If you’re talking about a bank account, then you just go to the bank, you’d explain to them what happened, take along a copy of the Death Certificate, and the bank will work with you to get the assets to you as a surviving joint tenant.

The bottom line is that there is no one path for you to receive your inheritance. It depends on the type of assets that you are supposed to be receiving. You must go to the source of each asset, and you must get those assets from each source. There could be, and often are, multiple locations where you must go to receive your inheritance. It all depends on the type of assets that somebody has when they pass away.