Help! What are my rights as a beneficiary in the ACT?

In the unfortunate circumstance that you lose a loved one and are a beneficiary, it is common to feel overwhelmed and confused about the legal issues that may arise – alongside other difficulties that come with loss.

An executor appointed in a will, or an administrator appointed by the court (if there is no will) is called a “legal personal representative” (LPR).  The LPR is responsible for administering the deceased person’s estate.  In some circumstances, the LPR might also be a beneficiary.

It is important to have an understanding of your rights as a beneficiary of a deceased estate.

The LPR has a general fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries.    

Generally, your rights as a beneficiary of an estate include:

  1. A right to obtain a copy of the will from any person in possession of it;
  2. A right to know what your entitlement is – you might be given a specific gift, or you might receive all or a portion of the ‘residue’ of the estate (which cannot be calculated until all testamentary expenses and estate liabilities have been paid);
  3. If you are a residuary beneficiary, a right to information about how your residuary entitlement has been calculated;
  4. Depending on your relationship with the deceased and your level of need, a right to make a claim against the estate for further provision; and
  5. A right to due administration, and to receive your inheritance within a reasonable period (which will depend on the complexity of the estate).

An LPR will generally engage a solicitor to act for them in securing a Grant of Representation from the court and attending to the estate administration.  On instructions from the LPR, the estate solicitor will often contact the beneficiaries to provide a copy of the will (if applicable), inform them of their entitlement, and provide a very general overview of the processes and timeframes that are relevant to the estate.

It is important for beneficiaries to be aware that they are not generally entitled to detailed status updates about the estate, nor is it appropriate that beneficiaries are privy to the level of detailed advice and information that will flow between an LPR and the estate solicitor.  It is also worth noting that estate administration can be complex and takes time.  The timeframe taken to administer an estate depends on a myriad of factors including the nature of the assets and liabilities, the number of beneficiaries and any potential claims against the estate. 

If there has been gross delay that is not explained, or if you are otherwise concerned that an LPR is not carrying out their duties, the BAL Wills and Estates team can assist you in ascertaining your rights and advising on avenues that may be open to progress the estate.

Contact BAL Lawyers

Losing a loved one is difficult emotionally and there is generally substantive legal work that must be undertaken, often within certain timeframes. Our expereicned Wills and Estates Team can guide you through this process.

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