I’m a beneficiary – do I have any rights to financial information about the estate?
Understandably, beneficiaries under a Will usually want to be kept informed about how much they are going to inherit and when they can expect to receive that inheritance.
In most cases, the executors (or, if there is no Will, the administrators dealing with the estate under the Intestacy Rules) do keep the beneficiaries informed and answer any requests for information but sometimes they don’t. This is very frustrating for the beneficiaries and may also raise concerns about the executor’s conduct.
In these cases, what can a beneficiary do?
Step 1: ask to see the estate accounts. Anyone responsible for the administration of an estate should keep estate accounts and make them available for inspection by a beneficiary or creditor on request.
Having sight of the estate accounts will usually answer the beneficiary’s questions or concerns.
Step 2: if the executors ignore the request, or give an inadequate response, alarm bells should start to ring. The executors might simply be overwhelmed by the responsibility of their task but it would be sensible to check what is going on. If further polite enquiries don’t produce results, the beneficiaries can make a formal application to the court to force the executors to provide them with information.
The scope of the help and information that the beneficiaries can obtain, and the consequences if the executors still do not respond, is different in each case. The best approach will depend on the facts but, in general, an executor whose failure to respond to reasonable requests for information prompts an application to the court for information will be at serious risk of being personally penalised in costs. Particularly serious failures might also justify an order for the removal of the executor.
In answer to the question posed at the top of this article, yes, beneficiaries do have rights to information and to be kept informed, and can do something about it if they are being kept in the dark.
If you are a beneficiary under a Will or intestacy and are worried about the way the estate is being administered, please contact Philip Youdan for a confidential discussion. You can reach Philip via email, Philip.email@example.com.