Do you know your rights as a beneficiary, if you’ve been named as one in a will? Perhaps you were expecting to be a beneficiary and have been left out of a will, or you’ve been named unexpectedly as one. Whatever your individual case, you do have rights as a beneficiary.
Will These 38 Beneficiaries End Up In Court?
Frasier star John Mahoney, who died in hospice at 77 last month, has reportedly left behind an estate worth more than $5 million.
Roughly $300,000 of this amount represents real estate, according to legal documents in a probate case filed by Bernard Dowling, a friend of John’s.
The potential benefactors, chosen from among the television icon’s friends and family, are said to number 38. It wasn’t immediately clear what was in his will. The actor was never married and had no children, but has reportedly left the money to close family and friends.
What To Do If You’re a Beneficiary
The most basic questions you’ll ask as a beneficiary are: how much will you receive and what will you receive? You may also ask more specific questions about what else is contained in the estate and who the other beneficiaries are.
You may be asking these questions because the executor of the estate is not being forthcoming with the relevant information, or because the estate is taking a long time to administer. You have a legitimate complaint if you as the beneficiary:
- Have not been provided with a copy of the Will and you don’t know what you’re entitled to; and
- Are not being provided with information in relation to the asset and liability position of the estate
- Are receiving little or no information about the administration of the estate.
Beneficiaries of estates have certain rights which are protected by law.
Executor’s obligation to beneficiaries
The executor has been entrusted with the assets of the estate and the power to administer the estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the estate. The executor must therefore discharge his or her duties with due care and loyalty to the beneficiaries.
Providing a copy of the will
Section 33Z of the Succession Act (Qld) 1981 states that the person who holds either the original or a copy of the will must allow:
- any beneficiary of a will or other person mentioned in the will or any previous will of the deceased
- a spouse, parent or child of the deceased,
- any person (or their guardian) who would be entitled to an inheritance under the laws of intestacy, or
- a creditor who has a claim against the estate,
to inspect the will or obtain a certified copy of it.
Identifying a beneficiary’s interest in an estate
A beneficiary should be promptly informed of their entitlement under a Will or under the rules governing the distribution of an estate in the absence of a Will.
A beneficiary has the right to receive a copy of the Will. In Queensland, the law compels a person who has possession or control of a Will of a deceased to provide a copy of the Will to any person named or mentioned in the Will, upon request.
Sometimes a will is complex, unclear or otherwise difficult to understand. If you’re a beneficiary and you’re not sure what the will says, seek legal advice from a specialist in wills and estates immediately.
Seeking information in relation to the nature of the estate assets and liabilities
For a beneficiary to effectively monitor the administration of the estate, the beneficiary needs information regarding how the executor is performing their necessary duties. Executors must provide this information to a beneficiary. However, the nature of the beneficiary’s interest can dictate the extent of information they are entitled to.
A beneficiary that holds an interest in a specific asset has a right to access information in relation to that specific asset, but generally nothing more. The rights of a beneficiary holding a residual or remainder interest in an estate are much broader. As a residuary beneficiary of an estate the entitlement to access to information extends to the ability to access information relating to the management and administration of the estate in its entirety.
If you are a beneficiary and you’re not sure what you’re entitled to, you are worried about whether the executor is performing their duties or you haven’t seen a copy of the will, seek legal advice immediately from a specialist in wills and estates. We offer a FREE 10-minute phone consultation – contact us today!