Where a deceased has left a Will and made provision for a beneficiary, a beneficiary may be anxious to know what they are entitled to under the Will and if the estate is being properly managed by the executor.
Beneficiaries of estates have certain rights protected by law.
Executor’s fiduciary duty
The executor owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries. In other words, the executor, who is entrusted with assets and power to administer the estate, must act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. As such, a beneficiary can lawfully expect that the executor will properly exercise their functions in dealing with the assets and proper administration of the estate.
Right to see a Will
The law specifies those people who are legally entitled to inspect and make copies of the Will, which includes a person named as a beneficiary. Where a deceased died without a Will, a beneficiary should be informed of their entitlement on the deceased’s intestacy.
Once beneficiaries receive a copy of the Will, they should usually be able to identify their entitlement to the estate. However, it is important that the beneficiaries seek the assistance of a Wills and Estates solicitor, as their right to further information often depends on the nature and extent of their interest in the Will.
Right to information
The beneficiaries named in the Will or entitled under an intestacy, have the right, at their cost, to inspect various estate and trust documents. Thus, it is a duty of an executor to keep proper accounts and be ready to render such accounts within a reasonable time when called upon to do so. As mentioned previously, the nature of the beneficiaries' interest in the estate can dictate the extent of information that they are entitled to. For instance, a beneficiary who is entitled to receive the deceased’s motor vehicle, may not be entitled to receive accounts relating to the residuary estate.
Further Rights of beneficiaries include:
- The right to be informed about the date and amount of likely distribution, and any delay;
- The right to be advised of any claim against the estate that may affect their entitlement;
- The right to seek maintenance distribution if the beneficiary is a partner or child who is financially dependent on the deceased;
- The right to receive a pecuniary legacy within 12 months of the death of the deceased.
When Executors have breached their duties
The beneficiary has a fundamental right to approach the Court for the determination of questions concerning the executor’s administration of the estate. For instance:-
- Where an executor is failing in their responsibilities, a beneficiary can also apply to the Court to have the order made to remove an executor from their role;
- Anyone who has sufficient interest in the estate can also request the Registrar to require the executor/administrator to file an account, failing which the Registrar may remove the executor.
At Burke Lawyers our Wills and Estates lawyers have extensive experience in all matters relating to Wills and Deceased Estate Administration including drafting or updating your Will, Probate, Letters of Administration and working with large and small estates.
If this article has prompted any questions about your Will or your rights as a beneficiary or would like to find out how our Wills & Estates lawyers can assist you please don’t hesitate to contact us today +61 3 9822 8588 or email our team here.