How Long After a Person Passes Away Will a Beneficiary Be Notified?

Posted Jul 6, 2024


When a person dies, any assets they've accrued over the years can be distributed in an orderly manner if a last will and testament was made before the decedent passed away. If a last will and testament wasn't made, the assets could be controlled by the state in which the decedent resided before distribution.  

Even when a will is made, a probate court will typically review the potential asset distribution to ensure that all creditors are paid before asset distribution occurs. During this entire process, any beneficiaries who are noted in the will must be notified. The following details everything you should know about when a beneficiary must be notified.  

Standard Process for Notifying Beneficiaries 

If someone close to you dies and you are named as a beneficiary, you should be notified of this designation within three months after the will enters probate. Make sure that you check the public records at your local courthouse if, for some reason, you aren't notified.   

Unless a decedent's estate is too small, wills are typically taken before a probate court to make sure they are valid. This is a very common procedure that's typically completed quickly unless the individual who died was exceedingly wealthy. It's also possible for probate to take a long time to be resolved if potential beneficiaries challenge the validity of the will.  

Every state has its own requirements for estates that can avoid probate. In California, all estates below $150,000 can avoid the probate process. In Alabama, however, the threshold for avoiding probate is $3,000 or less. When the assets are lower than these limits, the family can determine how property is divided. 

If you're a beneficiary of a will, you must be notified that you're a beneficiary once the will has been accepted for the probate process. Keep in mind that all probated wills are also immediately placed in the public record. Whenever a will is designed to avoid the probate process, notifying beneficiaries isn't required. However, this is a rare occurrence.  

Once the will is deemed to be valid, any individual can view the entire will at the local courthouse where the will was filed. If you believe that you're a beneficiary but haven't been notified, the courthouse should provide you with the answer you're looking for.  

Probate Process 

Probate is a common legal process that's designed to determine if a will is fully valid. Once the will has been examined, the court will collect all of the estate assets to ensure that they are properly distributed to beneficiaries who have been named in the will. Certain creditors will also be paid at this time.  

While state law can differ regarding when a beneficiary must be notified, the most common duration set for notification is three months after the will has been officially submitted to the probate court. Keep in mind that county courthouses typically file wills in the Register of Wills department.  

How Probate is Avoided 

As mentioned previously, probate isn't necessary for every situation. If the decedent had a small amount of assets when they passed away, the probate process can be avoided, which results in the settlement of the will occurring privately. There are also different types of assets that don't need to go through the probate process, which mainly includes assets that are given to beneficiaries based on a specific law or statute. These asset types include: 

  • Individual retirement accounts
  • Pension assets 
  • Any additional qualified retirement plans

This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. 

Realized does not provide tax or legal advice. This material is not a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified professional for your individual situation. 

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