A: Most inheritances aren’t, says Hindman. You might be named the beneficiary of a retirement account — or you could inherit the family home, for instance. If you’ve inherited a tax-deferred account like an IRA or a 401(k) account and you’re an eligible designated beneficiary1 or designated beneficiary, you may have as long as 10 years after the death of the original account owner to fully liquidate the account (depending on your age relative to the original account owner and certain other circumstances). The rules are complex, and distributions have tax implications. You should consult your tax professional regarding your specific situation. You’ll also be responsible for taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) as provided in the federal tax code. Assets in taxable accounts, by contrast, can be either liquidated or left in the account indefinitely. Again, you’ll want to meet with a tax professional to decide the best strategy for you.
“Things can get more complicated when converting real assets such as a family home or business into cash, especially when multiple beneficiaries are involved,” notes Hindman. If there are disputes over a will, it could take years for the issues to be resolved. In the best-case scenario, parents have worked with their advisor and estate attorney to construct a will or trust in such a way that its provisions account for the beneficiaries’ desires — for instance, which child wants to keep the family home or work in the family business.