A beneficiary is an individual whom a decedent has passed on personal property, cash or any other assets to. The will is a legal document that defines who are the beneficiaries of the decedent are and what inheritance they will be receiving. To protect the named beneficiaries, they are given certain rights to the estate — rights that extend up to their inheritable assets. Having said that, beneficiaries should take extra notice to ensure that they are not in any way entitled to anything beyond what the deceased benefactor has bequeathed to them. Yes, will and inheritance beneficiaries do have their own rights as such; however, these rights are limited for this matter.
Read on to find out more.
● Designation and Inheritance
A beneficiary is authorized to determine that a will has her name as a beneficiary together with the entire inheritance that the decedent has passed on to her. One of the main responsibilities of the executor is to let the beneficiary know that she is named as such in the will. Moreover, he is accountable in sharing with the beneficiary all information regarding what she will receive. Notwithstanding all that, the beneficiary is not allowed to receive, view, or appraise her inheritance until the probate has been completed and until she has been officially and legally listed as the new owner. A probate is a judicial process of ‘proving’ the will as a valid legal and public document.
● Reasonable Diligence
You as the beneficiary are entitled to receive a reasonable diligence from the executor when managing the estate. By reasonable, it means that your executor should be able to transfer the ownership of all your inheritance within a year after the decedent has passed away. Should your executor ask for additional time to execute his duties, you have to ask for the reasons for such delay.
● Right to Dismiss the Executor
Failure to perform the obligations of the executor gives the beneficiaries the right to submit a petition to the adjudicating court regarding the dismissal of the said executor. You may find in the decedent’s will the grounds for dismissing your executor. If not, then you can refer to the state’s probate code for valid reasons of dismissal. The common reasons for a dismissal include the failure to perform his fiduciary duties, accusations of estate theft, or the inability to manage the estate.
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● Timely Distribution
As mentioned before, the executor is under the obligation to process the transfer of inheritance within one year of the decedent’s passing. However, this rule can be changed depending on the state’s probate code and complexity of the state. In spite of that, the distribution should be done in a ‘timely’ manner. Generally, your executor should be able to complete the probate process before any distribution is to be made.
● General Information
There is a mistaken belief that beneficiaries are said to have the right to know anything that has to do with the estate’s assets, accounts, interests, and other general information. Contrary to this popular misconception, beneficiaries actually do not hold this right to any information outside the scope of the inheritance they are to receive as stated in the will. The information you are entitled to as a beneficiary can include the amount of outstanding claims the estate has and which assets are to be sold to cover the debt. You also have the right to ask for reports from your executor on how the supervision of the estate is going and how its assets are being used up. Beneficiaries hold the right to have a copy of the will during the probate. However, your executor shall not be obliged to create a copy or give out any information about the estate, and this includes the inheritance for other beneficiaries aside from yourself.
Abatement is a legal proceeding of liquidating the assets of an estate for the intention of paying for its outstanding liabilities. Abatement happens when an estate has more debt than the value of its disposable assets. In cases like this, beneficiaries can lose either a portion or all of their inheritance. In any abatement matters, creditors are given the priority before a beneficiary can exercise her rights, which means, the estate’s liability to its creditors should be settled first. As a result, an estate has to pay off its outstanding debt first before the court can proceed with the distribution of any assets left after the process to the beneficiaries. It is also important to note that assigned property and cash are not excluded from this procedure.
Should you find yourself a beneficiary to wills and inheritance, you may have a period of uncertainty ahead of you. With things like probate and abatement to potentially deal with, you may feel overwhelmed by the process. However, considering your rights as a beneficiary can go a long way — and hopefully this article helps you do just that.