When Should Beneficiaries of a Will be Notified?
Wills & Estates
Justice Family Lawyers Sydney
If you are listed as the beneficiary in a loved one’s will, you are legally entitled to be notified as to your naming in the will.
While there is no specific legal time limit for this, the executor should inform you as promptly as possible as to your entitlement under the will.
Beneficiaries of a will should be notified promptly.
If you are not informed promptly and properly as to your entitlement as a beneficiary, the law provides you with rights to access certain information.
Beneficiary Rights Regarding the Estate
As there is no legal requirement for the executor to hold a reading of the will in Australia, it can make it difficult for a beneficiary to know what their rights and interests are.
Obtaining documents related to the will often help to put the beneficiaries mind at ease during an already difficult time.
It is an accepted legal principle that the estate documents ‘belong’ to the beneficiaries named in the will or trust, although the person requesting them may have to pay any related administration fees.
In both New South Wales and Queensland, any person named as a beneficiary has the right to obtain a copy of the will. This is usually done by contacting the executor.
The will should help you identify your interests in the estate, however, if it is overly complicated, you should consider engaging the skills and advice of a qualified solicitor with experience in wills and estate law.
Types of Beneficiaries
A beneficiary’s right to access further documentation can often be dictated by the nature of their interest in the will.
Legally there are two types of beneficiaries:
- Beneficiaries that hold interest in a specific asset in the will, for example, a boat or vintage car
- Residuary beneficiaries who are entitled to a share of the overall estate once specific gifts have been allotted and any debts of the estate paid out
A beneficiary that holds an interest in a specific asset has the right to access information about that particular asset, but generally nothing more.
However, a beneficiary who holds a residual or remainder interest in the estate generally has the legal right to all documentation regarding the entire estate.
Further Rights of Beneficiaries
Further rights belonging to beneficiaries of an estate include:
- To be informed of the expected date they will receive their share of the estate and any delays that may occur
- If beneficiaries are to receive a legacy, that legacy must be distributed within 12 months of the deceased’s death
- To be advised of any claim against the estate which may affect their entitlement in the estate
What to do if the executor did not notify the beneficiary
If the executor does not notify a beneficiary of the estate, it means that they are failing in their duties as an executor and there may be legal recourse available to you in the Supreme Court.
The executor of the estate should contact the beneficiaries of the estate to let them know about the details of the will.
After a person dies, the beneficiaries should be notified by the executor about their entitlements in the will.
There is no set period as to when this needs to occur, however, probate needs to be applied for within 1 year of the date of death.
An executor should notify beneficiaries of their entitlements under the will as soon as practical.
However, there is no set law as to what the latest notification time actually is.
Practically speaking, it should be within the 1 year period before applying for probate.
You may be wondering if you are a beneficiary of a will.
It is up to the executor of the estate to inform you that you are a beneficiary.
There is no formal will registry that will allow you to check the details of wills.
You can only request information about a will if you are a beneficiary of that will.