What is a beneficiary?
In the context of a deceased estate, a beneficiary is a person or legal entity entitled to receive a benefit from the estate of the deceased. If the deceased left a will, the beneficiaries will be named in the will. If there was no will, the deceased will be said to have died intestate and the beneficiaries will be those named as being entitled to receive a benefit from the estate, pursuant to the rules of law known as the rules of intestacy.
General rights of a beneficiary
- Obtaining a copy of the will.
Beneficiaries are entitled to know of the inheritance they stand to receive and therefore be provided with a copy of any will upon making a request.
It is also the responsibility of the deceased’s personal representatives (executor if there was a will, administrator if there was no will) to notify the beneficiaries that they are entitled to a share of the estate.
- Kept informed of the administration of estate.
Beneficiaries have a right to receive information relating to the money that flows in and out of an estate during the administration process. This will include evidence of valuations and accounting records of the flow of funds.
This right also includes the right to be informed of any potential court proceedings which may adversely affect their entitlements from the estate.
- Receive distribution from the estate.
Beneficiaries also have the right to receive their entitlements in a timely manner. However, this timeframe will be dictated by many factors including the complexity of the estate, any claims made against the estate and any disputes which may arise in the course of the administration. As a very general guide, a beneficiary should expect to wait 9 to 12 months, even in a relatively simple estate.
- Seek damages against executors.
Beneficiaries have a right to take legal action against personal representatives if the personal representatives are acting improperly or in breach of their duty to administer the estate, causing substantial loss to the value of the estate.
It is crucial that you fully understand your rights and entitlements as a beneficiary to ensure that you are kept informed and your inheritance is protected from potential misconduct.
If you are a spouse, child or dependent of a deceased person and you feel that you did not receive an ‘adequate provision’ from the deceased’s estate, you may be entitled to make a Family Provision Application against the estate. Please refer to our publication ‘Family Provision Applications’ for more information about this process.
Should you wish to obtain more detailed information about to your rights, please contact us.