What are your rights as a Beneficiary of a deceased estate in NSW?
1. All beneficiaries must be informed whether or not the deceased left a valid Will.
2. It is not a legal requirement for the Executor to invite all beneficiaries to read the entire Will. The Executor only has a duty to inform each beneficiary of the nature and extent of their entitlement from the Estate under the Will. This includes when the beneficiaries might expect to receive their entitlement.
3. The beneficiary of a Will is only entitled to receive a copy of the Will in its entirety if they make a formal request to the Executor to do so. The Executor must then acknowledge the request and send the beneficiary a copy of the Will. The beneficiary may be liable for any expenses related to producing and sending the copy.
4. If there is a liability that attaches to the entitlement of a beneficiary, including tax and costs as a result of being a beneficiary, the Executor must notify the beneficiary of these liabilities.
5. The Executor must inform the beneficiary if there is going to be a delay in the distribution of assets from the Estate, and provide reasoning for the delay.
6. If there are any legal proceedings or claims against the Estate (Will Contests - Will Challenges - Family Provision Claims) which may affect the entitlement of any beneficiary, the Executor must make these beneficiaries aware of the claims.
7. If there are any legal proceedings or claims against the Deceased, at the date of death, which are set to continue despite the deceased's death, the Executor must inform the beneficiaries of these proceedings.
8. It is the right of all beneficiaries of a deceased estate located in NSW to receive their entitlement under the Will within 12 months of the deceased's death (plus any interest as prescribed by the Court, if paid outside this 12 month period). However, the Will can allow the Executor to delay the distribution of assets. If this occurs, the Executor must inform beneficiaries of any delay and provide a new revised expected date of receiving the entitlement.
9. Each beneficiary must receive a 'Statement of Distribution' from the Executor which sets out exactly how their distribution was calculated.
10. Beneficiaries in a Will are not entitled to have their legal costs related to the Estate paid by the Estate, unless this is ordered by the Court (this includes legal costs associated with: Will Contests - Will Challenges - Family Provision Claims).
It is not uncommon for beneficiaries to have particular wishes that relate to funeral arrangements for the deceased. If you are a beneficiary of a Will it is your right to consult the Executor to find out if there are any specific funeral directions outlined the deceased's Will.
If there are no directions for funeral arrangements in the Will then it is up to the Executor to inform the beneficiaries of the arrangements they will be making for the funeral. The beneficiaries do not have any rights related to these funeral arrangements; however requested changes to these arrangements can made to the Executor for their consideration. The Executor is under no obligation to fulfil these requests.
Funeral expenses will be paid before any beneficiary receives their entitlement. None of the deceased's assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries until the Executor finalises funeral arrangements. The person responsible for ordering the funeral and managing it (typically the Executor) is liable for the funeral expenses and must pay the account, but is then entitled to receive reimbursement from the Estate ahead of the beneficiaries and creditors.
Our Contested Wills & Estates Team
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If the deceased estate is mostly located in New South Wales (NSW) we can assist you. You can call us anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or send us an email.
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Author: Adrian Corbould
Adrian Corbould is a Law Society Accredited Specialist in Wills & Estates Law. For more than 10 years he has helped hundreds of clients in contested estate matters.