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What Information is a Beneficiary of a Will Entitled to?

If you are a beneficiary of a will, you might be interested to know what kind of information you are entitled to. The probate process will guide you on the information you should know.

When a decedent dies with a will, the beneficiary is the person the decedent names in the will to inherit a part of the decedent’s property. If you are a named beneficiary in the will, you begin having rights.

Right to be notified about the will and the probate process

The first right to information a beneficiary has is the right to be notified about the will. When the nominated executor submits the will for probate, the executor has to give notice to the beneficiaries of the will about his petition for probate. At this stage, you could ask the executor for a copy of the will. This will give you an idea of the type of beneficiary you are and the rights you have as a beneficiary.

Right to be informed about current and truthful information about the estate

When the will is granted probate and the executor is appointed by the court, creditors’ claims have to be filed within seven (7) months from the time of the executor’s appointment. Generally, the executor’s job is to pay off the decedent’s debts. Although there is no requirement that beneficiaries be consulted regarding every payment of the estate debt or expense, the beneficiary is still entitled to receive current and truthful information about the estate.

If the beneficiary does not agree with a particular debt or expense, the beneficiary can contest this in an accounting procedure, which can be expensive. For this reason, it is better for both the executor and the beneficiary to have a collaborative relationship. On the part of the executor, it minimizes any risk of being personally liable for surcharge. On the part of the beneficiary, it reduces any suspicion of executor misconduct and minimizes the likelihood of filing a petition to compel the executor to make an account or remove the executor for misconduct. An open collaborative relationship minimizes the risk of litigation, which expense could be taken from estate assets and which will reduce the beneficiary’s share in the estate.

The beneficiary’s right to current and truthful information about the estate does not only include payment of estate debts and administrative expenses, but also the sale of estate property. The beneficiary should be informed if the executor plans to sell valuable estate property, for example, real estate, most especially if the sale is below market value or to a relative or friend of the executor.

In New York, even if the beneficiary disagrees on the sale, an executor can still proceed with the sale unless the beneficiary is able to get a temporary restraining order. Still, if the executor and beneficiary continuously communicate with each other regarding the status of the estate affairs, the risk of the executor being subjected to litigation for surcharge is minimized.

Right to a copy of the inventory

When the will is granted probate and the executor is appointed by the court, the executor has nine months from appointment to file its inventory of the estate assets. A beneficiary, especially a residuary beneficiary, is entitled to see this inventory. The inventory will give you an idea of the value of the estate and how much you will get after estate debts and administrative expenses are paid. This will also give beneficiaries an idea on whether such inventory is correct or accurate. There might be other assets that have not been listed or are in the hands of third parties, which could help the executor in determining whether discovery and turn over proceedings are to be initiated.

Right to know when your share will be distributed

As a beneficiary, you also have the right to know when your share will be distributed. Unless there is a complicated will contest or a large and complex estate, the executor should give you an estimate on when the estate will be distributed. After the period for creditors to file claims have expired (seven months after the executor’s appointment), there should be an estimate on when the estate can be distributed.

Right to be informed in an accounting

A beneficiary is entitled to an accounting report of the estate. This accounting report includes how much principal was received by the executor, if there was any income, the administrative expenses, the executor’s commission (if any), any unpaid funeral and administrative expenses, bank account balances, and the proposed distribution. If beneficiaries agree to an informal accounting, they can sign waivers and releases. If not, the beneficiaries can request for a formal accounting and makes its objections to the formal accounting with the court. If successful, the executor shall be made personally liable for the expense and the charge will not be covered by the estate.

A beneficiary may have other rights, aside from above, depending on the unique circumstances of the estate. If you are looking for a New York estate attorney who can protect the rights of beneficiaries of a New York estate, 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.