After a person dies, beneficiaries are usually notified within three months once a probate court receives the person’s will, or within 60 days if the person had a trust. Typically, the executor or trustee is responsible for notifying beneficiaries. Notification laws vary by state, however.
Key deadlines for notifying beneficiaries
Here are some examples of required notification deadlines for beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries of wills or intestate estates should be notified at least 15 days before the date of the initial probate court hearing. Beneficiaries of a trust should be notified within 60 days of the death of the trust maker
The executor must notify beneficiaries of a will within 14 days of filing the will with the local
court. If the
can’t locate the beneficiaries, they have to publish a notice in a newspaper that is published in the same county in which the will is filed.
beneficiaries must be notified within 90 days of the trust becoming
(which happens when the trust maker dies)
Within 30 days of their appointment, the executor of a will must notify heirs and all other interested parties. Beneficiaries of a trust must be notified within 60 days of the death of the trust maker
The administrator of the will must notify all heirs within 60 days. Beneficiaries of a trust must also be notified within 60 days
The executor of a will must notify beneficiaries and next of kin within 60 days from the probate date
Within 60 days of the person’s death,
the executor must notify people who are specifically named in the will or who could inherit assets through Tennessee’s
laws. Beneficiaries of a trust also must be notified within 60 days of the trust becoming irrevocable (which happens when the trust maker dies)
Beneficiary notification methods
State laws dictate how beneficiaries are notified after a person dies. Some states require the use of specific language; others allow trustees or executors to use a simple, informal letter or their own words.
When beneficiaries can’t be reached, a notice in a local newspaper may suffice.
The required information in notifications might also vary by state. In New Jersey, for example, a notice to a beneficiary from the executor of a will must contain:
A statement that the will is being probated.
Date and location of probate.
Name and address of personal representative (executor).
An offer to provide a copy of the will upon request.
If the addresses for any heirs or next of kin are unknown, the executor must post a notice in a newspaper that’s available in the county. This notice must name all those who have a possible interest in the estate.
In Ohio, the trustee’s notice to beneficiaries must contain:
The identity of the person who created the trust (also known as the settlor).
The trustee’s name and contact information.
Trust formation date.
Physical address of the place the trust is being administered.
An offer to provide a copy of the terms of the trust.
Any additional information the trust requests the trustee to provide to beneficiaries
California requires executors to send an official notification form (Form DE-121) via first class mail to heirs and all interested parties.
Additionally, the executor must publish a notice three times before the probate hearing date; the notice must appear in a publication that circulates where the deceased person lived at the time of their death.
The state also requires at least five days between the first and the last publication date (not counting the first and last dates of publication).
What if I think I’m a beneficiary but haven’t received a notice?
If you believe you’re a beneficiary but haven’t received a notice, here are a few steps to consider.
Research the state’s notification deadlines. Maybe there’s still time and the notice just hasn’t been sent yet.
Look for notices in newspapers that circulate in the county where the deceased person lived. The trustee or executor may not know how to reach you.
Check with the probate court in the county where the deceased lived. This might help you determine if a will exists and if you were named as a beneficiary.
Consult an estate planning attorney. They may be able to help you get copies of wills or trusts in which you might be named, and they may help you contest a will if you believe you were denied an inheritance.
Are wills made public?
Wills typically become public record after the probate process is complete, which can take months (or years)
. Once a will becomes public, you may be able to view it online or request a copy from the probate court. Although the public usually can’t view a will until the conclusion of probate, people often can see that a case was created as soon as the will is filed with the court, which indicates whether a will exists.