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How long can it take for beneficiaries to receive property?

The differences between a will and a trust can cause confusion regarding how quickly property transfers to beneficiaries. A will written in Indiana, for example, requires the executor to settle the estate through the probate court. This could take between six months or more, even if there are no issues or disputes. 

The probate process can be skipped if the total value of the estate does not exceed $50,000. This amount reflects the net value after the estate has paid expenses such as a mortgage, burial expenses and taxes. The executor must begin the simplified probate process by filing an affidavit within 45 days of the deceased’s passing. 

Wills versus trusts

If the estate is worth more than $50,000, property ownership transfers to heirs after the probate court settles debts and taxes. A living trust, however, could help bypass probate. 

A living trust contains specific instructions for how a trustee must manage the trust’s assets. For example, a living trust could give instructions to use a rental property to provide income for beneficiaries. 

Payable-on-death accounts

Some financial products offer a payable-on-death (POD) option. In some cases, the beneficiary could receive the remaining balance immediately upon the individual’s passing.

To claim the funds, a beneficiary must present a death certificate so the financial institution can provide access to the account. Common POD accounts include savings accounts, checking accounts and CDs. Each account can have only one beneficiary.