Topics to be answered in this article
It is not necessary to use a solicitor to prepare a Deed of Variation and in fact a letter signed by the beneficiary will suffice provided it contains all the relevant information for stamp duty and tax purposes. However, in order to ensure that the correct information is included and that the deed is effective for tax purposes it is highly advisable to seek legal advice. If you vary a Will and get it wrong, you cannot correct this with another variation.
First, let’s start with what is a beneficiary?
A beneficiary is a person who has been named to inherit in a Will. This person may be left property, land, or money in the deceased’s Will.
What happens if a Will is invalid?
If a Will is declared invalid, it is up to the Court to decide who are the beneficiaries, despite what the original Will stated.
If you are a beneficiary requiring further information in relation to your rights, please contact our Private client department.
What obligations do executors have to beneficiaries?
Executors of an estate have certain obligations to beneficiaries of an estate. When an executor does not fulfill his or her obligations, beneficiaries have certain rights to force an executor to comply. This usually means getting the court involved. Executors can significantly reduce their risk by respecting a beneficiaries’ reasonable expectations and rights.
Related reading: What happens when there are executor disputes.
Can I remove an executor?
If you believe an executor is not carrying out their duties properly, you can apply to the Court to remove them from their role.
When should an executor notify beneficiaries?
Beneficiaries have a right to be notified that they are entitled to an inheritance from the estate. It is up to the executor to decide when is an appropriate time to inform the beneficiaries.
Often executors will inform beneficiaries at the beginning of the administration of the estate. This allows the executor the opportunity to prepare them for the administration process and answer any questions they may have about the terms of the Will. It can also help to prevent claims against the estate or give the executor the opportunity to prepare for claims.
Notifying beneficiaries promptly can also prevent unnecessary distress to those who are unsure of their entitlement.
As a beneficiary, what are my rights and what should I expect?
As a beneficiary, you should expect the following:
- To be informed that you have been named as a beneficiary and the details of what you have been left by the deceased.
- Note: You are only entitled to information about your Inheritance and not details about another beneficiaries inheritance.
- To be informed of the will’s existence
- Receive your entitlement in a timely way or if there are delays, the executor should keep you up-to-date to keep the process smooth.
As a beneficiary you aren’t entitled to receive inheritance until probate has been conducted and any assets or finances have been encashed or transferred into your name.
When can I see the Will as a beneficiary?
Once the grant of probate has been issued, then the Will becomes a public document and you are able to see the Will and its contents.
However, if you wish to see the Will before the grant of probate has been issue, you can ask the executor(s). On rare occasions they may not let you as they legally do not have to until probate has been granted.
What are some of the common issues beneficiaries face?
Beneficiaries will most often run into problems if the executor is not progressing things as fast as they want or being unclear in their updates.
At Goughs Solicitors, we’ve helped beneficiaries deal with issues such as:
- A delay in applying for probate
- Delay administering the estate once Probate has been granted
- Lack of information being provided
- Failure to disclose accounts.
What if I think an executor is abusing their position?
We can also help if you believe an executor is abusing their position and mismanaging the estate in some way. For example:
- Being dishonest or reckless with funds from the estate
- Selling property under market value
- Trying to buy property from the deceased’s estate for themselves
- Paying beneficiaries before settling outstanding debts.
How long will it take to receive my inheritance?
How long it will take you to receive your inheritance will depend on your situation, every situation is different as probate can be complicated and take a long time to finalise and administer everything. Other things that may cause delays include:
- How many debts there are to pay off
- May have to wait on the sale of a property
If you’ve got more questions or need some legal advice on your beneficiary rights, our team will be happy to help.