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.
What information is a beneficiary of a will entitled to?
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.
What are beneficiaries rights to information?
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.
Does a beneficiary have a right to see estate accounts?
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.
How long should a beneficiary wait for their inheritance?
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.
Conclusion on beneficiaries rights.
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 dealt with.