Estate planning is a complicated matter, and even a well-meaning benefactor may unwittingly cause unforeseeable conflicts or liabilities for their beneficiaries any number of ways. Often, these issues arise because an estate plan is not assembled professionally, is not maintained over time, or because the laws that govern estate planning and gift taxation change.
For many beneficiaries, a gift they receive from an estate stands to cause problems rather than bring blessings. This may be a matter of personal preference or a tax issue, or some other kind of conflict, but the end result is the same, and the beneficiary needs to figure out how to graciously decline a gift that is too heavy to receive.
Fortunately, the law does provide legal means through which a beneficiary may decline to receive a gift from an estate, known as disclaiming a gift. While it is not always simple to achieve, it is often worth the difficulty and emotional cost in the long run. If you or someone you love needs to consider disclaiming a gift, an experienced attorney can help you assess your circumstances and create a personalized plan that protects your rights and priorities while honoring the intent of your benefactor.
4 conditions of disclaiming a gift
In order to legally decline a gift, it is necessary for a person to meet four conditions. Once these conditions are met, the beneficiary has no obligation to the gift. In order to decline a gift:
- The declining party must make a disclaimer of the gift in writing
- The declining party must deliver the disclaimer to the appropriate party within nine months of the date of transfer that created the conflict (or within nine months of the declining party reaching the age of 21)
- The declining party must not accept the gift or the associated benefits
- The gift must pass to another party without the influence of the declining party
If a person who wishes to disclaim a gift follows these steps and abides by the time constraints, that is usually sufficient to disclaim the gift legally.
Be sure that you understand your estate planning needs
Whether you struggle with your own estate plan or someone else’s, it is important to understand the nuances of these complex documents and all the implications they bring. An experienced attorney can help you examine the many moving parts of an estate plan and help you protect your own interests and priorities while navigating the tricky terrain of disclaiming a gift or redirecting a gift you may make that a beneficiary disclaims.