Know your rights as a beneficiary
By Solange Buissé on 2017/03/08
Executors of an estate have certain obligations to beneficiaries of an estate. When an executor does not fulfill his or her obligations, beneficiaries have certain rights to force an executor to comply. This usually means getting the court involved. Executors can significantly reduce their risk by respecting a beneficiaries’ reasonable expectations and rights.
A beneficiary should expect the following:
Be provided with information
It is a fundamental right of a beneficiary to ensure that an estate is administered properly according to the terms of the Will. To do so, beneficiaries must be provided with enough information to enforce their rights. This generally includes the right to receive a copy of the Will shortly following the death of the deceased, and the right of being informed about the assets of the estate within a reasonable period of time. If a Will has been probated in Manitoba, any person can get a copy of the Will and the estate inventory from the court. However, in order to minimize disputes, the executor should consider sending a copy of these documents directly to the beneficiaries to ensure that they are properly informed.
Receive their entitlement in a timely way
The length of time it takes to administer an estate will depend on its nature and complexity. It is quite normal for an estate to take a year to be administered. However, a wise executor may want to keep the beneficiaries informed of any expected delays.
Be treated fairly
Beneficiaries have a right to be treated the same way as all other similar beneficiaries. The executor should not give preferential treatment to some beneficiaries and not to others, unless the Will directs them to do so. Even if the Will gives them discretion in dealing with certain assets as they see fit, an executor should keep beneficiaries informed to minimize possible disagreements, even if the final decision is up to him or her. An unhappy beneficiary has no recourse as long as the executor is respecting the obligations set out in the Will.
Receive an accounting
Beneficiaries are entitled to an accounting–a detailed report of all income, expenses, and distributions from the estate–within a reasonable amount of time. Beneficiaries are also entitled to review and approve any compensation requested by the executor. Usually beneficiaries will be asked to agree to the executor’s accounting before receiving their final share of the estate. If beneficiaries do not agree with the accounting, they can force the executor to pass the accounts to the court. This means that the executor will need to show the court everything that has gone in and out of the estate while he or she was executor. At this point, the court can also be asked to confirm the executor’s compensation.
Request the removal of the executor:
If a beneficiary believes that the executor is not acting in the best interest of the estate, the beneficiary can ask the court to have that person removed as executor. However, a court will only remove an executor if it determines that their removal is justified. That usually means that the executor will remain executor unless he or she has been in serious breach of his or her obligations. It will not remove an executor simply because the beneficiaries disagree with some of his or her decisions. An application to remove the executor is not without risks. The court may find that the legal costs relating to the application be paid by the estate, the beneficiary personally, or by the executor depending on the circumstance.
To avoid disagreements an experienced or well-advised executor will not wait until beneficiaries start asking questions; they will let them know at regular intervals how the administration of the estate is progressing. Furthermore, if a beneficiary is not receiving the information they expect from an executor, they should request it.
If you are a beneficiary of an estate and have any questions during the course of its administration and you cannot get a satisfactory explanation from the executor, you would be wise to consult your lawyer in order to enforce your rights.
Looking for more information on this subject, read Know your rights, what to know about the inheritance process.
Solange Buissé, Associate, Wills, Estates & Trusts at Taylor McCaffrey, can help you you’re your estate planning and administration. She can be reached at 204-988-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org
DISCLAIMER: This article is presented for informational purposes only. The views expressed are solely the author(s)’ and should not be attributed to any other party, including Taylor McCaffrey LLP. While care is taken to ensure accuracy, before relying upon the information in this article you should seek and be guided by legal advice based on your specific circumstances. The information in this article does not constitute legal advice or solicitation and does not create a solicitor-client relationship. Any unsolicited information sent to the author(s) cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.
If you would like legal advice, kindly contact the author(s) directly or the firm's Managing Partner Norm Snyder at email@example.com, or 204.988.0302.