How can I ask my uncle to hurry up dividing up inheritance?
February 27, 2011 1:08 PM   Subscribe

My maternal grandmother passed away 5 months ago and my uncle has taken charge of handling her inheritance with her lawyer. He hasn't given any updates or information on how the process is going since his initial email 5 months ago, in which he told me that my grandmother had passed and that I would receive inheritance. How can I ask him to hurry up?

I haven't been in good contact with my mother's side of the family since my mother passed away, hearing from my uncle every couple years. My uncle has reached out to me a couple times, but when I respond to him, he doesn't continue the email chain.

I am a college senior and need money for immediately after I graduate to move and support myself while I am looking for work. My father is short on cash and would be stretched thin supporting me after graduation.

While I don't want to seem as though I only want to profit from my grandmother's death, I also really do need the inheritance before I graduate in May. I have workstudy, and freelance web design jobs, but I won't be able to save enough for moving, security deposits, and unemployment while finding a job. What can I say to my uncle to indicate my need but also not come off as inconsiderate? It's especially important because we don't really have a close relationship, and I want it to improve as time goes on.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it would be appropriate and reasonable to write or call and politely ask for an update.

"As a college student, I can appreciate that time hurries by in a sea of business and I know the loss of someone near and dear is difficult, that bureaucracies can be challenging, and I hope it's not too soon to ask for an update regarding... ."
posted by ambient2 at 1:14 PM on February 27, 2011

You can ask for an update, but just be aware that even in the best of circumstances it usually takes a year to settle an estate. It often can take much longer.
posted by kimdog at 1:18 PM on February 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

There's probably not much you can do to speed up the probate process, though without knowing any details of the estate, there's no way we can know for sure. It can take anywhere from several months to well over a year, (depending on how complex the situation is and location), and for the most part of it there's no good way to speed it up except through careful attention during the estate planning process.
posted by dersins at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2011

IANYL, but five months is not a long period of time at all. If she died in September, he has to prepare two tax returns for last year, one for the time in which she was alive, and another for that part of the year in which she wasn't. I would suspect that he's waiting to do an initial distribution until after he gets the estate's taxes back, and there's a much clearer idea as to what the estate's tax obligations are. Taxman comes first, after all. He can't 'hurry up' that part of the process.

So just on that, you have a few months to go yet.

There's nothing at all wrong or inappropriate in asking to be updated, or asking if there will be an initial distribution. As to whether that comes across as inappropriate, that completely depends on the personalities involved.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:20 PM on February 27, 2011

My mom's estate was about as basic as you can get, and it still took nearly a year for probate to be settled. The executor was an attorney and a friend, and he wasn't exactly stalling. Things take as long as they take, sometimes. You cannot count on the inheritance coming through when you need it to any more than you could have counted on your grandmother putting you in her will at all.

In any case, yes, it's perfectly fine to inquire about the timeline.
posted by rtha at 1:39 PM on February 27, 2011

It takes a while. It's extremely possible that grampa isn't just dragging his feet here. Beyond that, asking for a status update is fine, telling him to hurry the fuck up is not.

Side note: What were you going to do if gramma hadn't died? Times are tough, but lots of people find a way to support themselves after graduation. I'd spend your time/energy/resources on that rather than on pursuing the inheritance, which will be what it will be and will get to you when it gets to you.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:56 PM on February 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Advice point #1: Don't plan for this money to be the one thing that saves your butt. Have several other plans for how you will make money. Because you have no idea how much money it will be, when it's coming, and/or whether you will even get money.

Advice point #2: My grandmother passed away about 5 years ago, and because a house was part of the property that has to be liquidated in order to "divide up the inheritance", and the market for houses sucks where her house is, we're still waiting for it to be sold so that everything else can be finished. Again, don't plan for this money to be the thing that saves your butt. Lots of stuff can happen that you don't anticipate.
posted by so_gracefully at 1:57 PM on February 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

As others have said, a year or so is pretty standard. Your question makes me wonder what you had planned to do if she hadn't died, though.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

As other have said, it can take a while to sort out a persons worth because they have to figure what debts she may have had and wait for settlement of things like life insurance. ..and that's the simplest scenario.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:01 PM on February 27, 2011

Yeah... gonna have to start making realistic plans about after college. Probate takes awhile, and while there is nothing at all wrong about making a discreet inquiry about the process this money isn't gong to be around to save your butt. This is slightly outside the scope of the question, but your dad shouldn't support you either, even if it means a crappy McDs job for a few months + 4 roommates, you gotta start carrying your own water.
posted by edgeways at 2:04 PM on February 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yes, nthing this. My maternal grandmother died in November 2009; it took approximately a year for the estate to begin paying out, and the last bequests are being released only now. It's highly unlikely that you'll see anything in May.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2011

A polite request for an update, acknowledging that you understand that this can be a long and complicated process, seems fine. Do NOT, however, indicate in any way that you want your uncle to hurry up or that you need the money because of impending graduation, etc.; that would almost certainly only make things chillier between you, not warmer.

And yeah: you have to make your plans as if there is absolutely no money coming.
posted by scody at 2:08 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

She died in September? Don't expect anything before next September. A year is pretty standard for an uncomplicated estate. May is way too early. what was your plan for post graduation BEFORE she died? You need to go back to that plan.

Certainly nothing wrong with e-mailing to ask, "How is the estate settlement going? Do you need anything from me?" But your uncle will certainly know why you're asking: You want the money faster.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:26 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think it would be rude to say something like:

"I'm planning for May (I'm graduating), and I was wondering if it's a good idea to depend on any part of the inheritance? I know that it takes a while, so if not, that's fine."

A little honesty goes a long way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:59 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

What everybody else is telling you here is right, it takes a while even in straightforward cases. A year sounds like a good starting point for expectations, unless you know more.

Issues I don't see mentioned here, but which might alter the time taken: the terms of the will, e.g. specific bequests vs percentages of the estate (specific bequests usually being simpler to pay out as soon as probate is complete if there are sufficient liquid assets); whether real estate is involved (time to sell has to be taken into account, and nobody wants to take a bath by making a hurried sale); issues of trusts, taxes, etc. can also slow resolution down.

I have just finished dealing with my mother's estate. It took just over a year until there was any payout, (except for reimbursement of expenses for things like maintaining the house until it could be sold), and then a significant payout after the house sold about a year after that, with final payments almost exactly three years after the date of death. Possibly it was a more complex situation than your uncle is facing, but it will give you an idea that five months not such a long time for these things.

I also agree with everyone else that there isn't any harm in politely asking for an update, though you shouldn't be surprised if your uncle doesn't have any very fixed idea of time frame for resolving the estate. I certainly didn't know up front how long it would take, and my lawyer was very vague in his estimates, probably so I wouldn't give him a hard time about things that were beyond his control.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:24 PM on February 27, 2011

If your uncle is non-responsive, call the attorney with whom he is working.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:25 PM on February 27, 2011

your dad shouldn't support you either, even if it means a crappy McDs job for a few months + 4 roommates, you gotta start carrying your own water.

THis is rude given that the US is 7.7 million jobs below '07 levels and the employment to pop. ratio is at levels not seen since the 70s. Tough love isn't going to change the fact that there are no jobs.

College graduates have to get creative and any support they can receive from family should be on the table.

For the OP, I would politely mention your graduation plans w/out any direct pressure (in my case a recent family inheritance allowed for an initial payout prior to final closing of the estate) but also be prepared to move back home until sometime late next fall when the dough arrives.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 3:32 PM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Write a letter, requesting an update. Not an E-mail, a letter. To the lawyer if possible. Just ask for the update.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2011

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