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Are Beneficiaries Entitled to a Copy of the Will?

Yes, beneficiaries are entitled to a copy of the will. In fact, in New York, in the petition for probate in Section 7a, all the beneficiaries are listed together with their addresses and the nature of their interest. All beneficiaries listed in Section 7a are given a notice of probate, and the mailing of the notice of probate to the beneficiaries is proven by an affidavit of mailing.

Under SCPA § 1409, the notice of probate must contain the following information:

  • Testator’s name
  • Petitioner’s name and address
  • That the will has been offered for probate
  • Name and address of each person named in the petition for probate who has not been served, stating whether each person is a heir, beneficiary, guardian, or fiduciary.
  • Name and post office address of the New York attorney general if the will contains a charitable bequest to an unnamed organization or that is an unspecified amount.

As a beneficiary, you can request from the Surrogate’s Court a copy of the will. From the will, you will know the extent of your interest: what the deceased left for you as a gift.

Usually, as a beneficiary, you do not need to do anything but wait for the distribution. However, if you are also a person entitled to inherit from the deceased had deceased died without a will, you are entitled, not only to a notice of probate but also to be served with a citation in order to give you an opportunity to object to the probate of the will. You can waive your right to receive this citation by executing a waiver and consent.

The full text of SCPA § 1409 states:

SCP § 1409. Notice of probate.

1. Before letters are issued there shall be filed in the court a notice entitled in the proceeding stating the name of the testator, the name and address of the proponent, and that the will of the testator has been offered for probate or probated, as the case may be.  The notice shall further set forth the name and post-office address of each person named or referred to in the petition who has not been served or has not appeared or waived service of process and shall state whether such person is named or referred to in the will as legatee, devisee, trustee, guardian or substitute or successor executor, trustee or guardian.  The notice shall further set forth the name and post-office address of the attorney general of the state of New York if the will that has been offered for probate contains a charitable bequest which is either to an unnamed charitable organization or is in an unspecified amount, including but not limited to, a bequest of all or part of the residuary estate.

(a) Where by the terms of the will an interest in a trust or other fund or property has been limited in any contingency to the persons who shall compose a certain class upon the happening of a future event it shall be sufficient to name only the persons in being at the death of the decedent who would constitute the class if such event had happened immediately before the date of such notice, and who have not been served or appeared or waived service of process.

(b) Where by the terms of the will an interest in a trust or other fund or property has been limited to a person who is named in such notice or who has been served or has appeared or waived notice of process, and has been further limited upon the happening of a future event to a class of persons described in terms of their relationship to such person it shall not be necessary to name such class of persons.

2. There shall be filed with the notice proof by affidavit of the mailing of a copy thereof to each of the persons required by the preceding subdivision to be named in such notice, and if any person is an infant or an incompetent, of the mailing of a copy thereof to the person or persons upon whom personal service of process is required to be made with respect to the infant or incompetent.  When it appears by the petition for probate that the name or address of any person referred to in this section is unknown mailing to such person of the notice herein described shall not be required.

3. Upon the probate of an estate and distribution of its assets, if any, under this chapter, if an undistributed asset is subsequently found by the estate, the surrogate’s court that granted such probate petition shall maintain jurisdiction and shall not require any additional service of the notice required by this section to be served again by the estate, unless such previously undiscovered asset has an estimated value of more than five thousand dollars or it has been more than seven years since the distribution of the assets pursuant to the original probate.

If you are a beneficiary who has received a notice of probate or an executor who needs to fill out a petition for probate to give notice to the distributees and beneficiaries, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at attorneyalbertgoodwin@gmail.com.