Does a beneficiary have any legal rights?
It may come as a surprise, but legally a beneficiary is only entitled to their share of the inheritance once the estate has been administered. They have no legal rights beyond this.
It is good to know that once probate has been granted, a Will becomes a public document. Until this point, a beneficiary is not legally entitled to see the Will, nor are they legally entitled to know they are named in the Will. It is up to the Executor named in the Will to divulge this information.
Typically, a beneficiary is told of their role in the Will and what they stand to inherit-they should be able to request a copy of the deceased Will to confirm this. However, it is ultimately the Executor that makes this decision. During the administration process, a beneficiary will likely what to be kept up to date with the process and have questions of their own. Unfortunately, the Executor-be it a relative or a solicitor are under no obligation to divulge anything to a beneficiary. If a solicitor was appointed by the named Executor to take over the administration of the estate, they tend to only speak with that named Executor.
Once work has started on the administration, an Executor should keep detailed accounts-a beneficiary does have the right to request to see these and the executor should oblige. If they refuse, this could be a ‘red flag’ that the estate is not being administered correctly so a beneficiary could seek separate advice at this point.
Beneficiaries do have the right to request the Executor in a Will steps down from his position. This could be because they feel they are unable to manage in the role, that the process is taking a lot longer than expected or that the administration is not being done correctly. Unfortunately, the Executor does not have to acknowledge this request but in a lot of cases, Executors do renounce their role.