Can a beneficiary refuse an inheritance?

My sister has plans to name me in her Will to leave me 1/3rd of a house which I do not want. I will be expected to maintain upkeep and taxes. The majority holding will go to my nieces who would make use of the property only a couple of months in the summers. I have no wish to live on property so this would be a burden on me physically and financially. We’re talking about a house which was originally built as summer cottage at the beach over a hundred years ago. My sister has made no attempt to take me off her Will even as I expressed my wishes.

Asked on November 28, 2011 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Yes--a beneficiary has an absolute right to disclaim, or refuse, an inheritance. If your sister predeceases you (which, of course, is the only time that this would even matter) and at that time you still do not want the property, let the executor know that you are disclaiming the inheritance; do so in writing in some way that you can prove delivery and receipt (e.g. federal express with tracking; certified mail with return receipt; etc.).

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