Should you be notified that you are the potential beneficiary of someone's estate, then what happens next depends on state laws.
When a will is filed in probate court, one of the first things normally required is to notify everyone who is named in the will or who may potentially benefit from the will. Sometimes, that can be many people, as is the case of the recently deceased actor John Mahoney.
His estate is worth approximately $5 million and there are 38 people who could be beneficiaries. Most of the time, the number of people notified is likely to be far less. If you are notified that you could potentially benefit from a will, you need to know what to expect from the probate process. This is especially true, if it is a large estate.
This was the subject of a recent Market Watch article titled "What to do if you're like one of 'Frasier' dad John Mahoney's 38 beneficiaries."
The answer to what to expect of the probate process? It depends.
State laws vary greatly about how the probate process is conducted. Your first question might be what you can expect to receive from the estate. However, that can take a long time to sort out. In some states, you can ask the probate court for a copy of the will that was filed. This might at least give you a general idea.
However, in other states, it is left to the discretion of the appointed executor (personal representative) whether to let people see the will. However, what the will says you should inherit, might not be what you actually receive. Other people and creditors might file claims against the estate.
What is the best thing to do if you are a potential beneficiary of a wealthy estate? Hire an estate attorney who can help you with the process in the state where the probate court is located.
For more information about estate planning in Orlando, FL (and throughout the rest of Central Florida), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: Market Watch (March 29, 2018) "What to do if you're like one of 'Fraiser' dad John Mahoney's 38 beneficiaries."