4 minute read

When Do Beneficiaries of a Will Get Notified: A Guide

When do beneficiaries of a will get notified of their inclusion? Learn the details surrounding last will and testaments and beneficiary notification here.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

When an individual passes away, certain legal processes take place to ensure that their property and belongings are properly passed on to their rightful heirs. If this individual has an estate plan in place, such as a Last Will and Testament, these processes become much more streamlined. If you have a loved one who recently passed away, you may be wondering what the appropriate wait time is to find out whether you were included in their estate plan. How long after a person dies will beneficiaries be notified? 

You may feel that it’s too soon or too insensitive to ask outright, but it’s still an important and valid question. Don’t worry, Trust & Will explains the details surrounding Last Will and Testaments and beneficiary notifications.

How long after a person dies will beneficiaries be notified?

Most states set timelines to guide how long it should take for a beneficiary to be notified of an individual’s death. This timeline depends on the state in which the beneficiary lives, as well as the type of estate planning document that was used by the person who passed away.

If the decedent named beneficiaries using a Will, then it may take some time for beneficiaries to be notified. Upon discovering the Will, the executor must file the document with the local probate court within a set amount of time. Depending on state regulations, this timeline could be several weeks or even a few years. In general, beneficiaries are notified within three months of the date that the Will is filed with the probate court. 

Beneficiaries of a Trust document are notified much sooner. For instance, the California probate code provides that beneficiaries must be notified by the trustee within 60 days of the Trustor’s death. 

How do you know if someone put you in a Will?

If a loved one has included you in their Will, they may or may not choose to disclose this information with you. If the Testator (the creator of the Will) chooses not to discuss their estate plan with you, then you will find out that they included you in their Will. This generally happens within a few months of their death when the executor contacts you. 

Will I be notified if I am in a Will?

Yes, state probate laws require that any beneficiaries included in a Will are notified. This duty lands on the executor, who is responsible for managing the Will and filing for probate. They are nominated by the Testator in the Will and are officially appointed by the probate court to this role. 

Once the Testator passes away, the executor is required by law to file the Will for probate and notify beneficiaries of both the death and their inclusion in the Will. executors may also notify other family members who weren’t expressly included in the Will in case they have any legal claim to property in case the Will is found to be invalid. 

Can you look at someone's Will online?

Yes, you can usually look at a Will online, but not immediately. 

Wills become public record, but only after it has been filed and the probate process for its respective estate has been concluded. The probate process can take several months to years in most states, which means that you may not be able to view the Will for quite some time after the Testator’s death. 

However, when the Will becomes available as a part of public record, then any member of the public has the right to locate and view the Will. They can even request a copy of the Will for a fee. These requests are submitted through the county probate court at which the Will and estate was processed. If for some reason the particular court does not maintain a digital database or archives, then you may have to visit the court in-person. 

Note that you can typically see that a case has been created when the Will is first filed, although you will not be able to access or view the Will until the probate process is over. This is sometimes helpful to an individual who simply wants to know whether or not a Will exists. 

Create your Last Will & Testament today

When a loved one passes away, it can be very unclear as to what happens next. You might suspect that you’ve been named a beneficiary, but you’re not sure when or how you’d be finding out. Further, you might feel scared to ask anyone out of fear of seeming greedy or insensitive during a time of loss and grief.

Luckily, resources such as this can provide you with the information you need. In review, it can take several months to be notified of someone’s death, and that you were named a beneficiary in their estate plan. This timeline is largely determined by the state you live in, as well as the type of estate planning documents that were used by the person who passed away. 

If they used a Will, then it is the executor who should be notifying you, generally within a few months of the death. 

If they used a Trust, then it is the trustee who should be notifying you. The timeline is much shorter. California laws, for example, require that beneficiaries are notified within 60 days of the death.

After you are notified, you typically must play another waiting game. In the case of a Will, you won’t receive your inheritance until the probate process has concluded, which often takes several months to even a few years. In the case of a Trust, you will receive your inheritance as soon as the terms of the Trust allow. Last but not least, if you are a designated beneficiary on a special type of asset or property not included in the estate, then that specific asset or property should pass to you instantly and automatically.

Proper planning and execution are necessary if you wish to protect your own estate and beneficiaries. Although the wait time for a Will may seem like a long time, the absence of a Will can make the probate process even trickier and lengthier. Establishing a Will is a great place to begin. Further, you may have noticed that the process is even more streamlined if you choose to utilize a Trust, which is a powerful estate planning tool that can be used in addition to your Will. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement  options today!

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Browse more topics in our learn center or chat with a live member support representative!

Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.