Unsuspecting Heirs: What to Expect

One of the biggest shocks a person can experience is being told that he or she is the heir to a fortune that he or she did not know about. Sometimes, distant relatives have no one to give their fortune to, and will locate an obscure relative that they have never met. Other times, a person may not realize that a relative or friend has the amount of money that they did, or wasn't expecting to be an heir in the family inheritance. Whatever the situation, there are times when a person comes upon an unexpected fortune from an unexpected relative.

If this sounds like you, doubtless you have questions. You need to know what to expect now that you have inherited an estate. To clarify, the money that you have just received if probably from a person who listed you in their will. Regardless of whether or not you knew this relative or friend, you are now in charge of some or all of their property. When you are located for an inheritance, you will be given a formal disclosure containing the amount of money or the total value of the estate. If you were located using a genealogical research source, they cannot tell you the exact source of your assets until all the agreements are covered.

You may be wondering how you were located. Most likely, an attorney, court, bank, insurance company, government agency or funeral home determined the need to get a hold of you. If you are online on social networking sites, then you were probably located this way. If not, then individuals probably used friends, neighbors, employees, records, databases, and more to find you and tell you about your new estate. You are probably entitled to receive this estate because the courts determined that you were the closest living relative to the decedent.

Once you are found, you will want to make claims on the estate as soon as possible. In fact, this newfound source of money should take your immediate attention. You will need to meet deadlines and satisfy many different requirements. If you don't get started on the various documents and other obligations that the probate courts tell you you need to complete, then you may lose your inheritance. If you were contacted by an heir-finding agency, they may inform you that you will need to pay them out of your estate. This is often the case, and you will want to comply so that you can receive the rest of your fortune.

You may be wondering how you could be ignorant of this fortune before now. Well, there are billions of dollars in unclaimed assets in the United States. Maybe you weren't even in your relative's will, but through careful research the probate court determined that you were the closest relation and therefore entitled to the will. Sometimes the decedent may have always intended to find you, but didn't have the resources to do so while he or she was living. Once you enter the probate procedure, you will need to do as the court asks and allow professionals to help you divide the estate.

You may need to satisfy the decedent's debts with some of the estate, and also pay for funeral expenses with these funds. After all of the necessary costs are covered, you can obtain your estate. You may want professional help when you are sorting through all of these issues. A probate attorney can be an indispensable asset during this time, especially if the estate is contested by another relative who believes that they deserve a share.