If you’re listed as the beneficiary, you might be wondering about the rights of beneficiaries. They can be complex, so we’ve compiled some information to help you understand where you stand if you become a beneficiary.
The rights of beneficiaries
Let’s start with the simple stuff. As the beneficiary of an estate, you hold certain entitlements that ensure the last wishes of the deceased are carried out in good faith and to a legally acceptable standard.
Knowing your rights as a beneficiary will help establish expectations and boundaries concerning how things unfold once the process has started. The rights of beneficiaries in Australia include:
- Your right to information to about the estate
- Your right to receive what’s left to you promptly
- Your right to ensure that the executor is acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries and the estate
Ultimately, you and the executor are trying to achieve that the wishes laid out in the Will are met. So let’s dive a little deeper into the rights of a beneficiary.
1. The right to information
One of your primary rights as a beneficiary is your right to access information about the estate. This right isn’t necessarily referring to just physical information like the Will, but also general information that the administrators could hold, such as their rights to elect a different executor and any ancillary information about the estate that may impact their position.
By obtaining information in a timely and accurate manner, you will be protecting yourself against potential challenges and the possibility of things dragging on. Finally, if the Will is structured in a legally compliant manner and easy to understand, there is a significantly lower likelihood of any complications.
2. The right to receive what’s left to you
It goes without saying that beneficiaries have the right to receive what’s left for them. So, if your grandma’s Will says you get her vintage handbag, the executor must give you the handbag within a reasonable time.
The standard to receive an asset that’s yours is typically within 12 months of the deceased’s death. Although a year may sound like a long time, the administration of the estate can take a while, especially if there are complications.
Here are a few things that can delay the process of administering the estate:
- Finding the Will
- Determining the assets and liabilities of the deceased
- Receiving the death certificate
- The probate application process
- When the executor is also a beneficiary
If you think the executor is purposely delaying the administration of the estate, you can petition the court for a reasonable explanation. If you don’t receive one, you can ask for their removal as executor.
3. The right for the executor to act in your best interest
Just like the beneficiary has rights, so does the executor. However, perhaps not as many. An important distinction between the two is that whilst you have the right to claim, an executor's involvement could be considered more of a transactional duty.
By understanding the difference, you’ll have a more holistic view of where exactly you sit throughout the proceedings. So let’s expand on this. First, the executor must provide impartial information to you in a timely manner.
That doesn’t mean they can change the conditions of the Will and provide preferential treatment. The executor must adhere to the rules and limitations of administering the estate on behalf of all the beneficiaries.
The executor also has a fiduciary obligation outside of a moral and ethical obligation to do what’s right on behalf of the deceased. This means they must fulfil their duties to manage the estate, but they don’t need to do everything the beneficiaries ask.
Withholding certain actions that are outside the scope of the Will, is not necessary that an executor is denying you of your rights. If what you are asking for is outside their purview as an executor, your request may be denied.
So, whilst you have rights to all the information, you can’t control how the executor administers the estate until they reach a settlement. At this point, you have the right to challenge the outcome via appropriate legal channels.
While people would like to assume that there won’t be any issues with administering their estate to their beneficiaries after they pass away, complications can arise. Therefore, it’s important to understand your rights as a beneficiary and the executor's rights.
If you’re unsure who to choose for your beneficiaries or how to leave your assets, here is some more helpful reading:
To learn more about how you can start writing your Will and planning your estate, contact the team at Willed.