When a person dies, his possessions are divided and distributed to the beneficiaries named in his will. To ensure that the process is handled in a fair and equitable manner and that all provisions of the document are legal, the will goes through probate court. The court provides oversight of the legal process and the ensuing distribution. If you inherit an annuity through a will, you cannot cash it in until after the will has gone through probate.
An individual can stipulate how he wants his property divided after his death in a number of ways. One of the most common methods is to make out a will. The will lists the person's assets and specifies how the property is to be distributed upon his death. The will is a legal document and it must be interpreted and approved by a probate court before the property can be distributed to the named beneficiaries.
An annuity is a financial asset, often administered by an insurance company, that provides beneficiaries with a certain amount of money over a fixed period of time. Sometimes, the annuity will consist of a mix of assets, such as stocks and bonds. When a person dies, he may leave this annuity to another individual if the annuity contract is written in such a way as to allow this.
Before you can inherit an annuity, the will that conveys this asset to you must go through probate court. Ownership and control of the annuity does not pass to you until the court reviews and signs off on the will. This means you won't be able to cash in the annuity until it clears probate.
The only way you could cash in an annuity while a will is in probate is if you are a co-signer on the annuity or it contained a clause that left it directly to you upon the policyholder's death. In this case, the annuity would likely not be subject to probate review and you could cash it in.
- "Wills, Probate & Inheritance Tax For Dummies"; Julian Knight; 2008
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