Becoming a beneficiary in Australia is a significant event that carries both legal and personal implications. A beneficiary is an individual who is designated to receive assets or benefits from a will.
Whether you have recently become a beneficiary or are simply curious about the rights associated with this role, it is crucial to understand your entitlements. Knowing your rights empowers you to make informed decisions and ensures that the wishes outlined in the will are honoured. In this article, we will explore the various rights of a beneficiary in a will. Read on.
Right to Be Informed
As a beneficiary, you have the right to be informed about your inclusion in a will. This means that the executor or the legal representative of the estate should notify you of your status as a beneficiary and provide relevant information regarding your entitlements.
Right to Receive Their Share
One of the fundamental rights of a beneficiary is the right to receive their share of the estate as outlined in the will. This share may include various assets, such as property, investments or personal belongings. The executor is responsible for distributing the assets according to the terms of the will and ensuring that each beneficiary receives their fair portion.
For instance, if you have been designated to inherit a specific property, you have the right to expect that the property will be transferred to you in due course.
Right to Challenge a Will
In certain circumstances, beneficiaries have the right to challenge a will. If you believe that the will does not reflect the true intentions of the deceased or suspect foul play, you can contest its validity. For example, if you suspect that the deceased was unduly influenced or lacked the mental capacity to make sound decisions when creating the will, you may have grounds to challenge its validity. However, it is important to note that contesting a will can be a complex legal process, and it is advisable to consider professional advice from a will and estate lawyer.
Right to Fair Distribution
If you believe that another beneficiary is receiving a disproportionately larger share of the estate, you can take action to address the imbalance. This is because beneficiaries have the right to expect fair distribution of the estate’s assets. This means that the assets should be divided among the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will and in a manner that is considered just and equitable. If you feel that the distribution is unfair or unjust, you can seek legal recourse with the help of a will lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.
Right to Executor Accountability
As a beneficiary, you have the right to expect transparency and accountability from the executor of the will. The executor is responsible for administering the estate, including the distribution of assets, paying debts and fulfilling other obligations outlined in the will. If you have concerns about the executor’s actions or suspect mismanagement, you have the right to request an explanation and, if necessary, take legal action.
Right to Contest Financial Mismanagement
Do you believe that the executor has mismanaged the estate’s finances or acted in a manner that is detrimental to the beneficiaries? If so, then you have the right to contest financial mismanagement. This could involve seeking an inquiry into the executor’s actions and potentially removing them from their role.
Right to Request Estate Information
Beneficiaries have the right to request information regarding the estate. This includes details about the assets, liabilities and any changes that may affect their entitlements. By staying informed, you can ensure that your rights as a beneficiary are protected and that you have a clear understanding of the estate’s status.
Right to Enforce Trust Terms
In cases where a trust is established as part of the will, beneficiaries have the right to enforce the terms of the trust. A trust is a legal arrangement that allows assets to be held and managed by a trustee for the benefit of the beneficiaries. If you believe that the trustee is not fulfilling their obligations or is deviating from the trust’s terms, you can take appropriate legal action to ensure compliance.
For example, if the trustee is not properly managing the trust assets or is using them for purposes other than those specified in the trust, you can assert your right to enforce the trust terms.
Right to Seek Variation of Trusts
In certain situations, beneficiaries may have the right to seek a variation of trusts. This allows them to propose modifications to the terms of the trust, such as changing the beneficiaries or altering the distribution percentages. However, any proposed variations must align with the intentions of the deceased and serve the best interests of the beneficiaries.
Right to Seek Legal Advice
Navigating the complexities of wills and estates can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding your rights as a beneficiary. It is always recommended to seek professional legal advice from a lawyer for wills and estates because they specialise in this area. A knowledgeable will lawyer can provide personalised guidance, explain your rights in detail and help you navigate any legal challenges that may arise.
What Can’t You Do as a Beneficiary?
While beneficiaries have various rights, there are also limitations to what they can do. For instance, beneficiaries cannot unreasonably delay the administration of the estate, interfere with the executor’s duties or take actions that go against the terms outlined in the will. It is crucial to act responsibly and in accordance with the law to ensure a smooth and fair distribution of assets.
In NSW, here are certain actions that beneficiaries are restricted from taking without proper authorisation:
- Making funeral arrangements for the deceased, unless you are the executor or have explicit permission from the executor.
- Removing an executor can only occur in specific circumstances, such as if the executor has passed away, lost capacity or is deemed unfit to continue due to factors like failure to contact potential beneficiaries or conflicts of interest that hinder estate administration or cause unnecessary delays.
- Accessing, removing, disposing of or selling any assets from the estate requires formal permission from the executor.
How Madison Marcus Can Help You
At Madison Marcus, we understand the importance of protecting your assets and interests for future generations. Our team of experienced will and estate lawyers offers a comprehensive range of legal services tailored to your unique needs, including assistance with will drafting, testamentary trusts or estate administration. We also provide expertise in areas, such as powers of attorney, succession planning and will disputes.
For all enquiries, contact us here.