Beneficiaries - What Rights Do They Have When it Comes to a Will?
The probate process can be complex and detailed, especially for a beneficiary who
is not actively involved in the administration of the estate. They will often not have full
information about anything outside of their own inheritance and this can lead to some
confusion and frustration.
An executor has the right to all information that relates to the estate. While it is seen
to be good practice for executors to share updates at certain times during the
process, there is no legal requirement for them to do this. The beneficiaries
themselves do not have any right to see the Will prior to the Grant of Probate being
obtained. Up until this point the Will is a confidential document.
Beneficiaries will be provided with information that informs them of what they are
entitled to. Near the end of the process, the preparation of estate accounts will take
place and these will be given to any residuary beneficiary. A recipient of a specific gift
or cash amount is not entitled to see the estate accounts unless the deceased’s
debts mean that there are insufficient funds to pay the gift. Accounts contain details
of the assets and all liabilities that have been paid from the estate along with all other
deductions like legal fees and costs of administration before setting out what the
beneficiary is entitled to.
It is worth noting that there is no timeframe on when beneficiaries will receive their
entitlement. Debts must all be paid prior to any distribution of funds and large assets
such as property may need to be sold. An executor does not have to distribute the
Will until one year has passed since the individual passed away however this could
actually take much longer. They should certainly not make distributions any earlier
than 6 months after the Grant of Probate has been issued as this is the timeframe for
any claim being brought against the estate. On average, it can take up to two years
for the estate to be completely administered.
It is common for beneficiaries to have concerns over the way in which the executor is
dealing with the estate as they do not, themselves, have full information about the
estate. Even an estate that seems relatively straightforward must be dealt with
correctly and only distributed after all debts and claims have been identified and