What Happens If a Beneficiary Does Not Claim Their Inheritance?

Inheriting money or property can be a life-changing event. But what happens if a beneficiary, someone named in a will to receive a portion of the estate, doesn’t claim their inheritance? This blog post dives into the consequences of unclaimed inheritance, exploring what happens to the assets and how you can avoid missing out on your rightful share.

Reasons for Not Claiming an Inheritance

There are various reasons why a beneficiary might not claim their inheritance, some of which are:

Unclaimed Inheritance and Medicaid Reimbursement

Tax reasons

  • Inheritances may face taxes, reducing value or creating tax liability for the beneficiary.
  • For example, inheriting money from an IRA may trigger income taxes on the distributions, while inheriting real estate may trigger capital gains taxes on the sale.

Financial reasons

  • Some beneficiaries may have their own financial assets and do not need or want more.
  • They may prefer to simplify their financial situation or avoid the hassle of managing another investment.
  • They may also want to pass on their inheritance to someone else who needs it more, such as a sibling, child, or charity.

Government benefits reasons

  • Some beneficiaries may receive government benefits based on income and assets, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or housing assistance.
  • Accepting an inheritance could make them ineligible for these benefits or reduce their amount.
  • Disclaiming an inheritance could help them preserve their eligibility and avoid losing their benefits.

Personal reasons

  • Some beneficiaries may not want to accept an inheritance due to personal or emotional reasons.
  • They may not want to deal with the responsibility that comes with the asset, such as a family business or a property that requires maintenance.
  • They may also want to avoid family conflict or resentment that could arise from inheriting more or less than other relatives.

Consequences of Not Claiming an Inheritance

Unclaimed Inheritance and Medicaid Reimbursement

Unclaimed Inheritance and Medicaid Reimbursement

  • If a beneficiary does not claim their inheritance, they may have to reimburse Medicaid for any benefits received during the time they would have otherwise been ineligible.

Option to Disclaim

  • The beneficiary may disclaim the inheritance, and it goes to the next beneficiary in line or reverts to the state if no other beneficiary is named.

Unclaimed Inheritance in a Will

  • If a beneficiary does not claim their inheritance, the assets are typically passed on to the next-in-line kin based on the state’s succession rules. However, if the court cannot identify a rightful heir, the unclaimed assets may eventually be absorbed by the state’s unclaimed property division.

Distribution among Other Beneficiaries

  • In cases where a beneficiary does not claim their inheritance, the unclaimed portion may be distributed among the other beneficiaries mentioned in the will. This ensures that the assets are not left idle and can still benefit those who actively participate in the inheritance process.

Waiting Period for Claiming Inheritance

In situations where a probate case must be closed before a beneficiary can receive their inheritance, it is important to note that the assets do not vanish. Instead, they are held until the beneficiary is ready to claim them. Executors and administrators play a key role in managing and safeguarding unclaimed inheritances during this waiting period.

The process of disclaiming an inheritance must follow certain legal requirements, such as being in writing, being irrevocable, and being made within a specific time frame. The beneficiary must not have received any benefit from the inheritance or exercised any control over it before disclaiming it.

See Also- Can My Brother Sue Me for My Inheritance?


Unclaimed inheritances can present challenges and complexities in the probate process. Beneficiaries and executors alike must be aware of the possible outcomes and take appropriate steps to navigate these situations. Whether it involves redistributing assets, managing waiting periods, or handling disinterested beneficiaries, seeking professional advice and following legal procedures is crucial. By doing so, the inheritance process can be properly managed, ensuring a fair distribution of assets and minimizing any potential complications or liabilities.


Who inherits if a beneficiary dies?

In the event that a beneficiary passes away before you, any specific or pecuniary gift designated to them in your Will typically becomes void and will be included as part of the remaining assets of your estate, unless you have specified an alternate beneficiary to receive it.

Can legal heir challenge the will?

Heirs have the option to contest a Will if they believe they have not received a fair share or if they have been completely left out of the inheritance. As primary beneficiaries, they possess the legal right to legally challenge the validity of the Will.

How long does a beneficiary have to claim their inheritance?

The timeframe for claiming an inheritance varies by jurisdiction and circumstances, but beneficiaries are encouraged to do so promptly and seek legal advice regarding any specific time limits.

What happens to unclaimed inheritance?

Unclaimed inheritance may be held in the estate until resolved, following the laws and provisions of the jurisdiction, potentially resulting in escheat to the government or placement in a trust.

Latest Articles

How to Remove a Conservation Easement from...

Removing a conservation easement from your property is not...

Buying a house that is zoned commercial

Introduction Investing in a house zoned commercial can prove to...

Can i sue my apartment complex in...

Can i sue my apartment complex? Reasons for Suing Your...