Distribute Assets


The method of title impacts when and how the estate representative and the beneficiary claim their inheritance.   Probate property has different requirements than non probate property.    If the estate owes estate taxes, or owes money to creditors,  the personal representative may not distribute assets the time frames for obtaining clearance from creditors and the IRS have passed.

Q. When can the beneficiary get rights to property subject to probate?

A. The probate process appoints a personal representative for the deceased.  Official documents give the appointed representative the legal authority to transact business on behalf of the deceased.  During life, the deceased signs deeds or checks.  The executor or personal representative must determine what type of probate procedures are required to get authority from the probate court to manage probate property.

Your will or state intestate succession laws determine who shares in your estate.   Your estate representative will be required to report to the court that the proposed distribution of your assets follows the terms of the will, or state succession laws.

The court will sign documents empowering the estate representative to transfer each asset’s title to the beneficiary.

County recorders and others require these documents from the probate court, as they authorize the transfer of title from the name of the deceased to the new beneficiary.

During a normal probate process, the court will issue documents referred to as “Letters” to the estate representative.

In a simple probate process, the authority documents may be affidavits prepared by the beneficiary or the estate representative.

Once the estate representative or the beneficiary have the  “letters” or “affidavits”, they can include these documents with other documents necessary to transfer title to the beneficiary or claim benefits on behalf of the beneficiary.


Q. How do you distribute non probate property to the beneficiaries?

A. It depends on whether the property is considered a trust asset or an asset with automatic inheritance rights.

  1. Trust assets will be managed by the successor trustee named in the trust.  The trustee has inherent legal authority to manage trust assets.
  2. The beneficiaries of property with automatic inheritance rights have the right to immediately claim their property without any documents issued by the probate court.  A certified or photocopy of the death certificate is usually the only authority documents the beneficiary needs when they complete the paperwork to claim benefits or property.

FACT.   Beneficiary receipts

The estate representative should communicate with the beneficiaries in writing.    Keep copies of the documents you send, whether by mail, email or fax.


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