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Is a Beneficiary Entitled to Information About the Estate and How to Ask for It

Is a Beneficiary Entitled to Information About the Estate

A beneficiary is entitled to information about the estate. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. If that’s not enough, then you can get the information through the court with the help of an estate attorney.

If the executor or administrator is not giving you information about the estate when asked, then they may be hiding something. If you have that suspicion, it’s best to consult with a New York estate attorney. You can call us at 718-509-9774. We can send them a letter on your behalf, explaining that you have rights and that failure to provide information can result in the removal of the executor or administrator from the estate.

If the executor is not providing information, the first step is to ask for it.

When a beneficiary does not ask the executor anything and the executor does not say anything, beneficiaries can wonder if they are even entitled to any information about the estate. Sometimes, the beneficiary has to be the one to take the first step and ask the executor what’s happening in the estate. That might be all that’s needed.

Some beneficiaries are not on speaking terms with the executor. If that’s the case, you don’t have to speak with them. You can send an email or a letter. Or you can have your estate attorney send an email or a letter to the executor or to their attorney.

If the executor is ignoring the beneficiary’s request for information about the estate, then it may be a good first step to have an attorney write them a letter.

Beneficiaries are entitled to an inventory of the estate within nine months.

Beneficiaries have the right to receive an inventory of the estate (not to be confused with a formal accounting) within nine months of the appointment of the executor or administrator of the estate. New York State beneficiary laws require the executor to file the inventory without any prompt from the beneficiaries. Meaning, an Inventory is something that should just be filed – the beneficiary should not have to ask for it. Some executors or administrators make a mistake of just filing the Inventory with the Court and not automatically sending a copy to the beneficiaries. It’s always a good idea to ask the administrator or executor for an inventory before deciding whether or not to proceed to the next step.

Beneficiaries are entitled to an accounting of the estate upon request.

If the executor is still does not providing information about the estate, your estate attorney can start a court proceeding to compel the executor to provide the information you are seeking. Section 2102(1) of the Surrogate Court Procedures Act provides that a beneficiary can petition the court to force the trustee to provide information about a New York trust.  The statute states: “a proceeding may be commenced to require a fiduciary to supply information concerning the assets or affairs of an estate relevant to the interest of the petitioner when the fiduciary has failed after a request made upon him in writing therefor.”

An estate accounting is a document that details every transaction that occurred in the estate and provides some summaries and explanations of the transactions. The document consists of various schedules in a court-approved format and complying with general accounting standards. At a minimum, the beneficiary is entitled to an estate accounting that includes schedules listing line by line all of the assets that are a part of the estate, all of the expenses of the estate, all income of the estate, and proposed distributions of the estate.

Executors or administrators of an estate do not have an automatic obligation to file an accounting of the estate. But once the beneficiaries request an accounting, they are entitled to it.

An informal accounting may be a good middle ground.

If a beneficiary and an executor/administrator agree to an informal accounting, it might work, as long as the beneficiary is satisfied, they have all the information. When an executor files an informal accounting, they don’t have to file it with the court. They can just provide it to the beneficiaries. An executor may ask a beneficiary to approve an informal accounting before the executor makes distributions of estate funds.

If the beneficiary is not satisfied with an informal accounting, they can ask for a formal accounting. If the executor/administrator fails to provide one, the beneficiaries can compel the executor/administrator to provide one. If the executor/administrator is ordered by the court to provide an accounting, they usually do or get removed by the court. Sometimes they provide an incomplete or fraudulent accounting. Beneficiaries can sue to challenge those accountings and get the money that the executor/administrator may be keeping from the beneficiaries.

And if the accounting reveals that the executor is mishandling the funds, the beneficiary can petition the court to remove the executor and have the estate reimbursed for the lost property.

As a beneficiary, you are entitled to information about the estate and you can get it with the help of a New York estate attorney. You can call The Law Offices of Albert Goodwin and set up a consultation. We can be reached at 718-509-9774.