By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD
When you die your estate needs to be distributed. If you have a will, that will directs to whom and how your estate is distributed. If you don't have a will then state law will determine to whom and how your estate will be distributed (intestacy). If you have established any types of trusts, these trusts will govern (control) the distribution of assets they control. You can often "re-distribute" or redirect the distribution of estate assets by using "disclaimers". This is when you (or another heir) file documents in court and take certain actions (or in-actions) to not accept an inheritance. When you disclaim (renounce) assets the distribution of the assets will be re-directed in accordance with the will (or state law, or the trust). Thus, you can use disclaimers to redistribute or redirect assets. Caution - if you instead accept an inheritance and try to redistribute it to persons you wish to receive it you will be in the chain of title or ownership of those assets which can have significant legal implications (e.g. hazardous waste on a real property; claims of your creditors; etc.) and there could be gift taxes as well.
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