What You Need to Know as a Beneficiary of a Will


Losing a loved one is a very emotional event.  If they have named you as a beneficiary in their Will, in addition to dealing with your grief, you may have questions about what happens next. The uncertainty can be nerve-wracking, especially if your loved one supported you financially or your home is part of the terms of their Will.

Often, a beneficiary doesn’t know what to do if they expect that the Executor is not working fast enough or mismanaging the estate. In this article, we will discuss some of the common questions we hear regarding being the beneficiary of a Will.

What are My Legal Rights?

As a beneficiary, you have legal rights over your portion of the inheritance after the estate has been distributed. However, before that time, you have the right to receive information to stay updated on the administration of the estate. This leads to our next question.

Is the Executor Required To Keep Me Updated on the Status of Things?

The Executor of the estate is the person who is responsible for administering the estate. What information is released to beneficiaries is at their discretion, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep things transparent. At the beginning of the administration process, the two of you should agree on how often they will provide updates, and they should adhere to this schedule.

After the Grant of Probate has been issued, the estate administration begins. The Executor(s) must keep accounts of the estate and provide you with them when asked. If you believe the executors aren’t being as transparent as they should be, or if you believe they are mismanaging the estate, your solicitor can provide you with legal assistance.

When Can I See the Will?

You only have the legal right to view the Will after the Grant of Probate is issued because that is when it becomes a public document. And although it rarely happens, the Executor could refuse if you ask to see the Will before then. You typically will know or be told that you have been left an inheritance, and if you ask to see the Will before the Grant of Probate is issued, you will likely be allowed to.

How Long Until I Receive My Share of the Estate?

The times to settle the estate vary based on the circumstances of each estate. For example, some estates can take 8-12 months, while others take longer.  Why does it take so long?

Before the Executor can make any distributions, they must settle all outstanding debts and ensure all assets are available. This process could involve the sale of a property, which could take time. It could also take additional time if foreign assets are involved in the estate.

An Executor can’t be made to distribute an estate until a year after the date of death. This period is known as the ‘Executor’s year’. And even after this time passes, if there is a good reason why they haven’t distributed assets from an estate, i.e. they’re waiting for a property to sell, they still can’t be forced to distribute assets.

Can the Executor Change the Will?

The Executor can only make changes to the Will if:

  • The beneficiary whose share is changing agrees
  • The beneficiary is an adult
  • The beneficiary has mental capacity

Can the Executor Transfer or Decide Not to Fulfill Their Duties?

The Executor cannot transfer their duties to someone else. However, they can get others to carry out administrative or practical tasks. If multiple Executors are named, not all have to act if they choose not to. This is known as Power Reserved.

When an Executor chooses to have Power Reserved to them, the other Executor must submit a formal notice stating that the Grant of Probate will be taken out in their name only. The acting Executor’s name will be on The Grant of Probate and will note that the other Executor has Power Reserved to them.

If an Executor chooses to give up their rights to administer the estate, they can do so by renouncing probate. However, they cannot renounce their duties if they have already received the Grant of Probate and begun taking steps to administer the estate. They can only step down from their role as Executor by applying to the Court.

Can I Remove the Executor?

If you think the Executor isn’t carrying out their duties, you can apply to the Court to have them removed. The Court will require evidence that they are no longer fit for the role. Some situations where this could be the case include:

  • They were convicted of a crime after being appointed executor.
  • They don’t have the mental capacity to carry out their duties as executor.
  • There is a conflict of interest.
  • They have committed serious misconduct such as mismanaging or stealing from the estate, selling a property for less than market value, or failing to keep accurate records.

Are You a Beneficiary Who Needs Legal Advice? Contact Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

You’re going through a difficult, emotional time. If you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, or you simply have a question, having a qualified, experienced solicitor available is essential.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors has been providing expert legal services to clients for over ten years. With experience in Wills, Probate, and Conveyancing, you can rest assured that you are getting the quality legal service you deserve from a team that cares about you and your situation.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation in our private office in Winnersh Triangle or the comfort of your own home.