If you are named as a person to receive an inheritance from a deceased person’s estate you are classed as a beneficiary. As a beneficiary, you have a number of entitlements arising in relation to the deceased’s estate. The executor is the person responsible for ensuring the deceased’s wishes are carried out and that the estate is distributed in accordance with the terms of the will. Executors owe a duty of care to beneficiaries in relation to the estate and have a number of duties they need to fulfil while acting as executor. Unfortunately, not all executors comply with their duties, which can have a significant impact on you as a beneficiary.
As a beneficiary you have the right to:
- know of your entitlement under a Will or, in the absence of a Will, your rights under the statutory provisions;
- request to sight or obtain a copy of the deceased’s last will (and also their earlier revoked wills);
- information relating to asset/s that form your inheritance;
- be informed of when you can expect to receive your inheritance and to receive information regarding any delays that may arise;
- be advised of any claims against the estate that may affect your inheritance;
- view the books of accounts for the estate (if you are a residual beneficiary);
- have the estate administered in a timely fashion; and
- receive your inheritance.
These are some signs that an executor might not be complying with their duties:
- They won’t give you a copy of the will.
- They are refusing to obtain probate, or it has taken them more than 6 months to obtain probate from the date of the will-makers death.
- They are seeking payment of an executors commission without explanation, or requiring agreement to payment of an executors commission before they commence administration of the estate.
- They are failing to respond to your correspondence and requests for information.
- They are not maintaining estate assets – for example, attending to maintenance and upkeep on real estate owned by the estate.
- The estate is missing assets you had expected it to own.
If you are a beneficiary and you believe that an executor is not fulfilling their obligations, we recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible. We can assist you in understanding the executor’s obligations and your rights and ensuring that the executor is behaving properly. In some situations, the Court can even remove an executor from their role and order them to take steps to rectify any harm you have suffered as a beneficiary as a result of their conduct.