Your rights as the beneficiary of a will

Date: Nov 18, 2015

In any wills and estates situation, it can often appear difficult to understand your rights.

The rights of a beneficiary are one such area: those people or entities that receive either a gift or benefit from a deceased person's estate. This is why it's often a good idea to consult with professional lawyers before engaging in an estate dispute.

Understanding your rights

As a beneficiary, you have a number of rights and protections under NSW law. To make engaging in legal proceedings easier, it's important to understand some of the key rights.

1) Accessing a will

Beneficiaries must be informed as to whether or not the deceased left a valid will. The executor of the estate is responsible for performing this task. However the executor does not need to invite every beneficiary to read the will, they only need to inform each person or entity as to what they have been left from the estate. It is usually regarded best practice that an executor notifies beneficiaries soon after the death.

You are able to make a formal request to the executor to receive a copy of the entire will, and at this point the executor must respond and send a copy.

2) Efficient Administration of the Estate

It is sometimes the case that beneficiaries are not kept informed as to how the administration is progressing. While this situation can be frustrating, it is good to know that the beneficiaries have the right to see the administration of the Estate performed effectively and with due dispatch.

This right was recognised by the Court in Commissioner of Stamp Duties (Qld) v Livingstone [1965] AC 694.

While understanding your rights as a beneficiary can seem a difficult undertaking, there is always help available in the form of expert wills and estates lawyers.

It's always better to understand both what you're entitled to and what avenues you can pursue once someone passes.