As a Beneficiary, Do I Have Any Say in Probate?
23 May 2019
If you are the beneficiary of an Estate, then whether or not you will have any say during Probate will depend on what you are receiving and whether the person who has died left a valid Will.
How Does Probate Work?
When someone dies, Probate is the word which is often used to describe the legal and financial process of dealing with their money and possessions. These are called their assets and the collective term for all of a person's assets is their 'Estate.'
Quite often the family and close friends will need to obtain a legal document called a Grant of Representation, which gives them the legal authority to deal with the Estate. The person responsible for dealing with the assets, paying off any debts and then distributing what is left over to the beneficiaries is either called the Executor (if there is a Will) or the Administrator (if there isn't one).
Beneficiary Acting as Executor / Administrator
If the deceased died without a valid Will in place, this is called dying intestate. When someone dies without a Will their property must be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy. These rules place relatives in order of priority, setting out who is entitled to act as the Administrator and who is entitled to inherit from the Estate. These are likely to be the same people.
If, on the other hand, there is a valid Will which appoints one or more people as Executor, they will be the people responsible for winding up the Estate. When making a Will, it is possible to name someone as both a beneficiary and an Executor.
So, if any of the beneficiaries act as an Executor or Administrator, then these individuals will certainly have a say in Probate, as they will be responsible for carrying out the work. However they should differentiate between and their role as an Executor/Administrator.
If the Beneficiary isn't an Executor / Administrator
The umbrella term for Executors and Administrators is 'Personal Representative' and they have a duty to keep all beneficiaries informed during Probate. They also have a duty to provide certain documentation, as well as to act in good faith. This is the case regardless of whether the Personal Representative is a beneficiary themselves.
A Personal Representative should pay all debts as quickly as possible and they can't keep ownership of the assets, either, when the Estate is ready to be distributed to the beneficiaries.
What Information is a Beneficiary Entitled to See?
Generally, only Residuary Beneficiaries are entitled to see the Estate accounts. The Estate Accounts will contain a record of all transactions carried out during the administration and show how the balance of the Estate is distributed.
If you find that you are a responsible for administering an Estate as an Executor or Administrator, our Probate Specialists can take care of the legal, tax and administrative work that Probate entails. With our Probate Complete Service, we take responsibility for obtaining the Grant of Probate, completing all of the Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax paperwork and dealing with HM Revenue & Customs. We will also arrange the sale or transfer of assets and contact all of the beneficiaries on your behalf. Our fixed fee would be paid for with funds from the Estate, with no upfront costs to pay.
Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done that price will not change, unless the original information we are given is shown to be incorrect or circumstances change.