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Adrian: Missing beneficiaries, what does that mean to you as an executor? I’m Adrian Corbould, Accredited Specialist, Wills & Estates, Turnbull Hill Lawyers for the Battle of Wills series.

An executor has a pretty much daunting and thankless task. They have to gather in the assets, distribute them to all the beneficiaries pretty much without any error. If they make an error in not including and not paying particular people who should have received something, they can be held personally accountable. Meaning they have to pay personally from their own money, not from the estate because that money is gone.

There’s no real insurance policy for that other than what’s known as a Benjamin Order. A Benjamin Order is a specific order issued by the court, on application by an executor or administrator, to seal off all categories of beneficiary. This happens mostly in intestate estates where there’s no Will, for example, there’s no spouse, there’s no children and it all goes to someone’s siblings. What if those siblings are overseas? What if those overseas siblings had children but the administrator has no idea who they are, where they can be contacted, how to find them, whether they even exist?

Someone could come back in three years and make a claim, and that executor could be financially wiped out. What they should do is get a Benjamin Order. However, those Benjamin Orders can be expensive, time-consuming and they cost the estate a substantial amount of money, which then costs the beneficiaries. Ways to minimise this is to have a valid Will that is specific as to the beneficiaries, the class of beneficiaries, and provide some information, if known, as to contact details.

That’s all for today, hope that was of some use. Look forward to talking to you again next time.

Turnbull Hill Lawyers, and specifically Adrian Corbould and Mary Windeyer, have been named in the prestigious 2022 Doyles Guide. Both were also listed in the 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 guides.

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