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MAIN Arrow to Home Life Home Legal Guide Arrow to Inheritance Inheritance

last will & testamentWorldwide, most federal and local governments have inheritance laws in place to equitably distribute assets from an estate to relatives or others names as heirs — and to protect bequests included in a will or Revocable Living Trust.

In the U.S., upon the death of a loved one who has prepared all of the legal documents, the will still has to "go through probate", or a procedure involving the filing of proper forms, filed with a local probate court which legally orders fair distribution of the inheritance.

The job of executor, or someone named in the will to settle the estate, often includes filing the proper papers with the probate court, paying off taxes or debt owed by the deceased, and distributing property to the designated heirs named in the estate. Many localities provide for set amounts of the estate to be paid to lawyers and the executor.

Most wills, fortunately, run their normal legal course, but things get a bit more complicated if there is property to be distributed in more than one state - in which case different inheritance laws and probate proceedings may apply.

Similarly, when an estate is bequeathed by a close relative or family member living in a foreign country, it becomes highly advisable to hire a local lawyer within the country (from which the will originated) to obtain applicable information.

What if there is no will?

Having no will is called being 'intestate' and can create expensive problems for those who stand to inherit assets from an estate.

Grief creates stress in any family. Trying to remain calm while dividing up the worldly possessions of a loved one without any guidance has torn many loving families apart.

Make sure that your family does not have to face this turmoil. Rather than bringing up the subject before a serious surgery or during a terminal illness, take the time now to plan your estate. It's much easier to discuss your wishes with your family when you are healthy and death is a far-off event.

Around the Web, find out more about inheritance law in the US, Canada, and Europe, with related lists of inheritance and probate terms, and expert tips on executing and managing inherited money or property from a relative or loved one ...

More about inheritance law around the Web:

Probate Court, Executors and Handling an Estate
- Check out this helpful guide from covering the responsibilities of the executor of a will, probate court shortcuts by U.S. state, related FAQ, probate glossary, downloadable forms.

Successions in Europe - Find detailed information on laws and regulations in the UK, throughout Europe and Eastern Europe that govern inheritance including issues of inheritance by foreign nationals and transfer of assets located abroad.

The information provided on these pages is intended as reference
only and does not constitute professional legal advice.


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