Can a Beneficiary of a Will See the Estate Accounts?
11 September 2019
Generally speaking, the only people who are entitled to see Estate Accounts during Probate are the Residuary Beneficiaries of the Estate. However, there are some exceptions to this rule and these are explained below. This information only applies in England and Wales.
What are Estate Accounts?
Estate Accounts are accounts showing the flow of money into and out of a deceased person's Estate.
When someone dies leaving a Will, this sets out who should inherit their Estate. If a Will has not been left, inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will apply instead, and these will determine who should benefit from the Estate.
Regardless of whether or not there's a Will, the person responsible for administering the Estate must follow the correct procedure and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. The person carrying out this role is called the Personal Representative.
As part of their role, the Personal Representative must prepare Estate Accounts showing the total sum of the Estate's assets, liabilities, fees and administration expenses. The Estate Accounts must demonstrate what money has come into and out of the Estate and show how the balance of the Estate has been distributed to the Beneficiaries.
Who is Entitled to See the Estate Accounts?
The only people entitled to receive a copy of the Estate Accounts are the Residuary Beneficiaries of the Estate. A Residuary Beneficiary is someone who is entitled to a share of what's left in the Estate once all the funeral expenses*, debts, taxes and other gifts have been settled.
There are different types of gift that can be left in a Will. For example, a Pecuniary Legacy is a gift of a specific sum of money. If an individual is left a Pecuniary Legacy of £1,000, then once they have received their £1,000, they will have no further right to the Estate. A Pecuniary Beneficiary is not entitled to see the Estate Accounts.
But if an individual is to receive a share of what's left in the Estate after all expenses and Pecuniary Legacies have been paid, then this means they are a Residuary Beneficiary. As a Residuary Beneficiary, they would be entitled to see the Estate Accounts. This is because the way in which the Estate has been administered will have a direct impact on how much inheritance they receive.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are some exceptions to this rule. The following also have a right to see the Estate Accounts:
- A Beneficiary who is entitled to receive a Pecuniary Legacy but this cannot be paid in full (because there is insufficient money in the Estate)
- Beneficiaries and creditors whose interests/liabilities cannot be paid in full because the Estate is insolvent
- Parents or guardians of minor Beneficiaries who are Residuary Beneficiaries
What Should Estate Accounts Contain?
Estate Accounts should contain a complete record of all financial transactions that have been made during the administration of an Estate, from the date of death through to its conclusion. The Estate Accounts do not have to be finalised and shared with those entitled to see them until the Estate has been finalised.
There is no specific rule as to the format of Estate Accounts but they would generally consist of:
- summary of the terms of the Will/Rules of Intestacy
- balance sheetcapital statementincome statement
- securities (investments) schedule
- distribution statement
If a Residuary Beneficiary does not receive a copy of the Estate Accounts upon request (after the Estate has been finalised) they can apply to the Probate Registry for an Inventory and Account Order.
*Funeral Expenses – One of the benefits of our Probate Complete Service is that in certain circumstances we can settle the cost of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral and reimburse any deposit paid, as soon as you have instructed us to represent you; providing that the Estate owns assets that can be liquidated.
Co-op Legal Services has been named Probate Provider of the Year 2018, is the largest provider of Probate and Estate administration services in England and Wales, and is trusted to deal with over £1.3 billion in Estates annually.