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Do I have to accept a bequest I don't want?

No, you don't. A bequest is a gift left to you in a decedent's will. You may not want the gift for a variety of reasons. For example, it may be a burden on you, or it may result in adverse tax consequences for you. Whatever your reason for not wanting the bequest, you can refuse it by disclaiming it. The bequest then goes to the recipient who is next in line under the will. But if you just say "No, thanks" to the bequest, you may be seen by the IRS as making a gift to the next recipient! This could cause federal and state gift tax consequences to you. To avoid these consequences, you must refuse the bequest by making a valid disclaimer.

You must satisfy the following requirements for a disclaimer to be valid for federal gift tax purposes:

  • Your refusal must be irrevocable and unqualified.
  • The refusal must be in writing and signed.
  • The disclaimer must be received by the decedent's personal representative no later than nine months from the date of the decedent's death.
  • You must disclaim before receiving any benefit or interest in the bequest.
  • The disclaimed bequest must pass to the next recipient without any direction from you.
  • The disclaimer must be valid under state law. Check with your state to determine the requirements for a valid disclaimer.