Family lawyers often receive many enquiries about the rights of beneficiaries of a Will. This article aims to provide a brief explanation on the rights of beneficiaries.
Before we explore this topic in detail, here is a quick refresher on key terms associated with Wills and testaments.
- Testator: The Will-maker is known as the testator.
- Beneficiaries: They are the ones who are entitled to receive a portion of the estate. Beneficiaries could be the family members of the deceased, close friends of the deceased or other close associates.
- Executor: Executors are responsible for administering the estate and distributing the property following the death of the Will-maker. Executors hold many important responsibilities in relation to the Will.
Apart from executors, beneficiaries also have some important responsibilities and rights. If you are a beneficiary, it is very important to know the rights of beneficiaries. This is because staying unaware around this issue can lead to many disputes and conflicts in the future.
Importantly, while understanding the rights of beneficiaries, it is also equally necessary for you to know the rights of executors. Many a times, people who are new to the legal procedures involved when dealing with Wills get confused with the two terms and mix-up the rights of beneficiaries with the rights of executors.
What Are Rights And Responsibilities Of Executors?
When a person has been nominated as the executor in a Will, he/she has certain rights. These include:
- If the person does not wish to be an executor, he/she has the right to decline being an executor;
- Where the executor agrees to carry out his/her duties, the executor is entitled to receive compensation for all duties which he/she carries out;
- The executor is given one year from the date the Will-maker dies to distribute the estate as mentioned in the Will. This is also called the executor’s year.
The executor has some important responsibilities. These include:
- Collecting the assets of the estate;
- Locating the legally valid Will of the deceased
- Discharging all liabilities of the deceased;
- Distributing all assets of the estate;
- Applying for a grant of probate;
- Organising a funeral for the deceased based upon the wishes of the deceased, and subsequently pay for the funeral costs;
- Making arrangements for the death certificate of the deceased;
- Providing any eligible party copies of the Will if it has been requested by them;
- Protecting the assets of the estate and protecting all property of the deceased;
- Identifying the guardian and children of the deceased;
- In case of any disputes between beneficiaries of the Will, the executor needs to act as a mediator and assist with resolving all conflicts.
What Are Rights Of Beneficiaries?
The primary rights of beneficiaries include the right to be informed about various aspects related to a Will. As different states have different legislation on matters related to Wills, the rights of beneficiaries may vary slightly based on each legislation. See below for the legislation on Wills in each state within Australia:
|New South Wales||Succession Act (2006)|
|Victoria||Wills Act (1997)|
|Queensland||Succession Act (1981)|
|South Australia||Wills Act (1936)|
|Tasmania||Wills Act (2008)|
|Western Australia||Wills Act (1970)|
|Australian Capital Territory||Wills Act (1968)|
|Northern Territory||Wills Act (2000)|
However, overall there are some important rights that you must be aware of. For instance, in NSW based on the Succession Act (2006) the following are the rights of the beneficiaries:
- When the Will-maker dies, the beneficiary of Will has the right to be informed whether the deceased has left a valid Will.
- The right to be informed about the nature and extent of the deceased’s estate and whether they have been nominated as a beneficiary in the Will.
- The right to receive a Statement of Distribution which provides information about their share of the estate, including the calculations that the executor made.
- The right to be informed about what the beneficiary’s expected share can look like. Furthermore, the beneficiary also needs to be informed about the date on which he/she can receive the entitled allotment.
- If the beneficiary requests for a copy of the Will, the executor or anyone else who is in possession of the Will has to provide the copy to the beneficiary.
- In case of liabilities associated with the portion of the estate which a beneficiary is receiving, he/she needs to be informed about the liabilities like taxes for instance.
- In case there are any anticipated delays in the distribution of the estate, all beneficiaries need to be informed about the same.
- If there are any anticipated conflicts or disputes, the beneficiaries have a right to be informed about any contest or challenges to the Will. This is because these disputes might affect the beneficiary’s share of the estate.
- The right to be informed about the overall administration of the estate.
- The beneficiary must also be notified in case of any legal proceedings against the deceased.
- All beneficiaries have the right to receive their share of the estate within 12 months of death of the deceased.
Importance Of Seeking Legal Advice
If the topic of rights of beneficiaries is not clear to you, there are chances that the confusion may lead to unnecessary delays and disputes. It is therefore important to know all your rights, regardless of whether you are a beneficiary or executor of a Will.
This is also because along with the rights, there are also many responsibilities which need to be carried out. The topic of Wills and all associated legal processes can get very tricky. This is especially because when you are dealing with the death of a loved one, thinking about Wills and estate planning may already be a difficult challenge.
At JB Solicitors, our Wills and estate planning team are here to help you with all processes involved when dealing with Wills. If you wish to be informed on your rights as executors or beneficiaries, it is also advisable that you contact your solicitors to learn more.
Our friendly and experienced team is always here to help you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss any Will-related issues.
Contact JB Solicitors today.