Disclaimer of interest

Disclaimer of interest (also called a renunciation), in the law of inheritance, wills and trusts, is a term that describes an attempt by a person to renounce their legal right to benefit from an inheritance (either under a will or through intestacy) or through a trust.

There are a number of reasons why a person might wish to avoid an inheritance, particularly if the proceeds would only go to their creditors, or if it would drastically affect their income tax liabilities. Under thecommon law, a person who disclaimed their interest would be treated as though they had died before the trust or will came into effect. This was a sensible option if the disclaiming party was an heir by descent, whose own children would then take in his place and without the imposition of a gift tax.

The disclaimer must be in writing and submitted to the court overseeing the disposition of the estate within a legally specified time period, which is usually nine months after the death of the person from whom the disclaiming party stands to inherit, or twelve months after the creation of a trust by a living person. An affidavit may be required in which the disclaiming party must swear that he has not received any consideration(i.e., compensation) for the disclaimer. The disclaimer must also occur before the disclaiming party has enjoyed any benefits of the trust or inheritance. Many jurisdictions now have statutes that prohibit a disclaimer when the individual is insolvent or receiving certain public benefits due to low income.

A disclaimer of interest is irrevocable. It must be a complete, and not a partial disclaimer. Such a disclaimer can be made by a legal guardian on behalf of a person who lacks the capacity to make the disclaimer themselves, but this usually requires the finding by a court that the disclaimer is in the ward’s best interest.

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