What happens when you receive an inheritance from a friend, family member or loved one that you don’t really want? What if it is a piece of polluted swampland with major environmental concerns? What if the inheritance puts a beneficiary offside any social assistance he or she receives? What if the inheritance is from someone that the beneficiary did not had a great relationship with and does not want to accept their gift? Must the beneficiary accept this gift?
The legal answer is ‘no’ – beneficiaries cannot be forced to accept gifts. Beneficiaries have the right to refuse the gift, so long as they follow the proper steps to disclaim the gift in a timely fashion.
The legal requirements to disclaim the gift are minimal. A disclaimer may be effected by contract, by declaration or even informally by way of an email or possibly even conduct.
The two main requirements of the disclaimer are: (1) that it must be made clear that the intended recipient does not want to become the owner of the gift or property; and (2) the gift must be disclaimed before the intended recipient received any benefit or otherwise dealt with the property. Once a benefit has been taken, then the disclaimer can no longer be made.
It is also important to note that the gift can only be disclaimed in its entirety. An intended recipient cannot disclaim part of the gift or property and accept the other part. It is an all or nothing disclaimer.
Once made, a disclaimer will be retroactive to the date of death of the deceased. This means that a beneficiary that disclaims a gift is refusing to acquire the property of another. The effect of this, is that the property is never acquired or deemed to be acquired by the beneficiary.
The property or the gift, once disclaimed would fall back into the residue of the estate and would be then gifted according to the terms of the Will, or the rules of B.C.’s intestacy legislation (legislation that governs who benefits from a deceased’s estate where the deceased did not have a Will respecting their estate or portion thereof). For more information about the intestacy rules in B.C., please see our blog article “When Should You Make a Will?” which can be found here: http://touchstonelawgroup.com/kelowna-lawyers/make-will/
If you are considering disclaiming a gift or inheritance please contact one of our lawyers practicing in the area of wills and estates to discuss further.
Author: Jennette Vopicka
This information is general in nature only. You should consult a lawyer before acting on any of this information. This information should not be considered as legal advice. To learn more about your legal needs, please contact our office at (250)448-2637 or any of our lawyers practicing in the area of estate planning and estate administration at the following:Jennette Vopicka: firstname.lastname@example.org Danielle (Dani) Brito: email@example.com Jane Otterstrom: firstname.lastname@example.org