Can an Heir or Legatee Refuse To Inherit From Me?


Some people decline to take a gift from an estate (that is, “disclaim”) because they want others to inherit, rather than themselves.  Some people disclaim for tax reasons, usually related to the estate tax and preserving the unified credit of the first spouse to die.  If one disclaims for tax purposes, that person will want to consult a certified public accountant and read with care Internal Revenue Code §2518 concerning qualified disclaimers.  Some people decline a gift from a decedent for reasons sufficient to themselves, but incomprehensible to the rest of us.

One can disclaim an intestate gift, a gift made under a will or trust, and even gifts made during the lifetime of the decedent.  One can decline insurance proceeds, employee benefits, IRAs or bonds, and any other sort of gift.  RCW 11.86.011, RCW 11.86.021.  The gift that is disclaimed will pass as though the person who disclaimed the gift had died immediately before the gift was made.  RCW 11.86.041.  The disclaimer itself must be in writing, signed by the disclaiming person, and identify the disclaimed property or interest with sufficient specificity.  The disclaimer must be created within nine months of the date of death (or the date of the majority of the disclaimant), and mailed or otherwise delivered to the creator of the gift or that person’s representatives.  The disclaimer should be filed in the decedent’s probate matter, or, if there is no probate, in the superior court clerk’s office of an appropriate county.  If the disclaimer relates to real property, the disclaimer may be recorded in the county where the property lies.  RCW 11.86.031.

A person may not disclaim if that person has previous accepted an interest in or benefit from the gift, or otherwise acted as though the gift belonged to them.  RCW 11.86.051.  One may not disclaim a gift before one is entitled to it.  In re Estate of Baird, 131 Wn.2d 514, 933 P.2d 1031 (1997).