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Understanding Beneficiary Rights

Understanding Beneficiary Rights

Beneficiary Rights


  • What are the rights of beneficiaries
  • What am I entitled to a beneficiary of a Will
  • Can a beneficiary make a claim against the estate?

Losing a loved one can be an extremely difficult time and the last thing you need is to also experience problems with the administration of the estate.

When someone makes a Will, they are required to nominate an executor to administer the estate and to ensure that the directions contained in the Will are followed.

It is recommended that the executor is someone who is trustworthy and administratively savvy. The executor also usually engages a solicitor to act on their behalf to deal with the legal side of administration of the estate.

One of the main roles of an executor is to protect the interests of the beneficiaries in the estate and in doing so, to keep the beneficiaries informed about developments regarding the estate.

However, on occasions, beneficiaries can be left out of the loop, particularly if a beneficiary does not have a good relationship with the executor. The beneficiary can then be left unsure about how the estate is being administered.

What are the Rights of Beneficiaries?

Once a person dies, a beneficiary to a will has certain rights which include the right to:

  • Be advised that the deceased left a valid Will and receive a copy of the will from the executor or lawyer holding the Will.
  • Be made aware that the person is a beneficiary.
  • Be provided with details as to their expected share and when they can expect to receive it.
  • Be notified of any liabilities attached to their entitlement.
  • Be informed of any expected delay in distribution of the estate.
  • Be informed of any challenges to the will which may affect their share.
  • Know of any legal proceedings against the deceased.
  • Receive their share within 12 months of the date of death, unless the will says otherwise.
  • Receive a statement setting out how their share of the estate was calculated (unless it was a specific gift).

What am I unable to do as a Beneficiary to a Will?

While beneficiaries have the above rights, there are certain things that a beneficiary is not entitled to do. These include:

  • Making funeral arrangements – this is the role of the executor and therefore the executor’s permission is required.
  • Remove an executor from their duties – other than in certain circumstances on application to the Court for an Order to remove the executor.
  • Access, remove, dispose of, or sell any assets – without permission of the executor.

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Can a beneficiary make a claim against the estate?

Just because a person is a beneficiary, this does not mean they are eligible to make a claim for a larger share of the deceased’s estate.

The Succession Act 2006 is the law which sets out who is eligible to make a claim under the will, namely:

  • Spouses
  • Ex-spouses
  • Children
  • Grandchildren, who were dependent on the deceased during their life time
  • Any person, who was a member of the deceased household during their lifetime and was dependent on the deceased
  • A person who the deceased was living in a close personal relationship with.

If a beneficiary falls into one of these categories, the beneficiary may be eligible to make a family provision claim against the estate, if they have been left with inadequate provision in the will and they have a need for further provision as a result of their financial and personal circumstances.

Common Mistakes to Avoid as a Beneficiary

Navigating the intricate landscape of wills and estates can be daunting. As a beneficiary, it’s essential to be aware not only of your rights but also of common pitfalls that can cause unnecessary distress or complications:

Rushing the Process

The distribution of assets might take longer than anticipated. While it’s understandable to want a swift resolution, the legal process can be intricate and requires due diligence to ensure everything is done correctly.

Misunderstanding Entitlements

Remember, the executor has the responsibility to pay the deceased’s debts and taxes before distributing assets.

Neglecting Expert Consultation

Seeking guidance from professionals, be it legal or financial, is always a wise move. They can provide clarity on the nuances of the will.

Ignoring Communication

Open communication with the executor and other beneficiaries can ease many concerns. It can also prevent misunderstandings and conflicts in the future.

Failing to Update Personal Documents

If you inherit significant assets or properties, it’s crucial to update your personal records, including wills or insurance policies, to reflect the changes in your financial status.

How we at Coutts Lawyers and Conveyancers can help

If you are a beneficiary in a will and you feel the executor is not acting in your best interest or your rights are not being protected, please contact one of our experienced Wills and Estates lawyers who can assist you with your matter and determine your best course of action.

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Alexander Cumerlato

Alexander joined the Coutts team in May 2022 as a Lawyer working in our Wills & EstatesPersonal Injury & Employment Law teams, working between our Narellan and Campbelltown offices.

Alex holds a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws from Western Sydney University, a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice; and has been admitted to the Supreme Court of NSW.

For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:

Alexander Cumerlato
1300 268 887

Contact Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers today.

This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever in relation to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.

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