If the claimant has property, which was willed to him or to his spouse, the exact terms of inheritance must be secured from the will. If the claimant does not have a copy of the will, one can be found in Probate Court Office. The Probate Court file will usually contain an inventory of the real and personal assets of the estate, an appraiser’s report of the value of the property, a list of heirs or beneficiaries with their proportionate interests set out, and creditor’s claims. The claimant or his spouse may share the inheritance with other persons and hence own only a proportionate share of its net real value, or may have only a life interest in it. If there was no will, it is necessary to ascertain the interest a surviving spouse of the deceased person has in the estate and whether there are surviving children of other heirs.
In determining eligibility for assistance on the basis of ownership of property, the interest of an applicant or recipient in property of any kind acquired by inheritance will be considered at the time it is actually available to him.
Title to real estate passes to and vests in the heirs immediately on the testator’s death, although real estate is liable, upon order of the Probate Judge, for any debts against the estate if there is no sufficient personal property in the estate to satisfy the debt. The general principle to be followed in inheritance of real property is that ownership begins with the date of the testator’s death. However, if after examination of the records in the Probate Court and discussion with the administrator of the estate, there is a question as to whether the real property (or his interest in it) is actually available to the applicant or recipient, a letter stating all facts having a bearing on the question should be sent to the State Office for administrative determination.
Title to personal property vests in the personal representative of the heirs (administrator or executor) until administration is completed and the estate is fully settled or distributed. Therefore, in determining eligibility with respect to ownership of cash or negotiable securities, determine from the records of the Probate Court and from the administrator of the estate the date on which such property will actually be available to the applicant or recipient.
The processing of deceased estates in the Probate Courts can take a month or longer. This is to provide time for publication of notice to creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries, and to give the executor or administrator time to assemble the assets of the estate, secure necessary appraisals, and proof of creditors’ claims, identify heirs, etc. Under some circumstances, the Probate Court may order partial distribution to be made before final settlement.