Receiving an inheritance can be a great gift for anyone. It could be a sizable sum, a meaningful gesture or a significant responsibility that a person carries on. Under any of these circumstances, recipients can wonder when and how they will receive their inheritance.

There is no one easy answer, though, as the details of distribution depend on many details. However, there are some general notes that can help beneficiaries better understand the process.

Will vs. trust

Property in a trust will be handled differently than money left in a will. As this article describes, the executor of the estate will first pay bills, debts and other expenses. Once that is complete, he or she will distribute remaining assets in accordance with the will.

Gifts in a trust are different. A trustee manages these and will distribute them in accordance with the decedent’s wishes. This could mean making periodic payments, restricting sale of property and other specifications that affect when and how a person might receive items held in the trust.

Amicable vs. contentious

Another element that affects when a person might receive an inheritance is whether the process is contentious. If probate runs smoothly, then recipients generally receive property faster. If disputes arise, it can take months or even years longer. Further, if someone contests a will or mismanages a trust, such efforts could change whether there is an inheritance to give in the first place.

Simple vs. complicated

The simplicity of an estate is also going to affect payouts. In cases where the estate is simple to settle and there are clear directions for who will receive an inheritance, it can be easier to distribute assets. If an estate is highly complicated, it can be very difficult to determine who should receive what and how to value property. These aspects can take longer to examine, and therefore delay any gifts that may be given.

Whether you are a beneficiary or the executor of an estate, you can expect there to be some great interest in how and when parties receive an inheritance. Should specific issues or questions arise involving payouts, it can be wise to consult an attorney.