While an estate’s executor is the person most involved in an estate’s administration, this does not mean they can leave the people who stand to benefit from the estate assets(beneficiaries) in the dark throughout this process. RMB Wills and Estates Division explains:
It is important that an executor understands that beneficiaries have numerous rights under law.
Put simply, beneficiaries have the right to be informed. Upon request to the executor, a beneficiary is entitled to a copy of the deceased’s Will and is also entitled to updates from the executor on the progress towards distribution of the estate, including any likely delays.
Furthermore, it is an expectation that a beneficiary receive their entitlement from an estate within 12 months of the date of death, unless the Will stipulates otherwise, or there are extenuating circumstances as to why this cannot occur.
Most commonly, delays occur because funds need to be retained in the estate until the settlement or other resolution of claims for greater provision brought against the estate by eligible persons.
If distribution has not taken place within 12 months, a beneficiary is entitled to request their distribution from the executor, to which the executor must provide reasons as to why that cannot yet be made.
An executor must provide the requested information to beneficiaries. Failure to do so may be construed as a breach of their fiduciary obligations to the estate (and the beneficiaries by extension).
The information that a beneficiary is entitled to will depend on the nature of the beneficiary’s entitlement. Put simply, the beneficiary is only entitled to information that affects their distribution from the estate.
If the beneficiary is left a specific cash amount under the Will, they may call for this amount to be distributed to them (and in fact if it has not been paid after a year from the date of death, interest will be taken to accrue on such an amount).
However, they will not be entitled to information that only impacts on the assets left to the residuary beneficiaries.
Likewise, if a property is left to a certain beneficiary under a specific gift, the residuary beneficiaries will have little standing to request information or seek input in relation to that property.
Given that the executor owes significant duties to the beneficiaries of an estate, it is important when considering who to appoint in this role that you feel they will take these duties seriously.
Are you experiencing something similar? If yes, your first step should be to contact our office to arrange a free consultation. You can contact us by by phone or our 'Ask a Question' tool on our website.