When you leave assets to someone in your estate plan, he or she is not legally required to accept them. The inheritance can be disclaimed. This is often done for tax reasons or to avoid inheriting property with more debt that its worth. When this happens, the property generally passes to the next heir according to the laws of Intestate Succession.
The law assumes that the person who disclaimed the inheritance predeceased you and the inheritance goes to the next person in the line of succession. However, there are exceptions to that. If you have a Trust, for example, that goes to person A for her lifetime and then goes to person B, person B can accelerate his or her inheritance if person A disclaims the Trust. That means that Person B gets the Trust immediately. This is not always a good outcome of Person B is a minor child. However, it might be better than Person C, who would be the next in the line of succession, getting the Trust for his or her lifetime.
The best course of action is to think about what will happen if one of your heirs or beneficiaries disclaims the inheritance. In most cases, you can designate an alternate person to receive it, making it your choice rather than up to state law.
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