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What are my rights and responsibilities as a beneficiary of a will?

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | Probate |

Beneficiaries are major parties in a probate process. Nevertheless, many of them know little about probate and their role in the administration. This lack of knowledge creates uncertainty and fear of liability, among other sentiments.

“How do I know if the executor is fulfilling their duties well?” and “Will I be liable for creditor claims against the estate?” are some of the questions beneficiaries may ponder.

Accordingly, they can relinquish these doubts once they know and understand their rights and responsibilities.

Exercise those legal rights

Technically, the main right of the beneficiary is to receive their share of the estate as listed in the decedent’s will. However, this right creates an extension of other rights to ensure that this primary right is protected, which includes the following:

  • The right to request the executor to provide information about the estate and its management.
  • The right to request transparency over the administration process.
  • The right to petition the executor’s removal or replacement on justified grounds.

By exercising these rights, beneficiaries maintain knowledge about the status of their estate shares, monitor the executor’s activities in case of misappropriation or negligence, and protect their rights.

Beneficiaries have duties, too

While it seems like beneficiaries are only recipient parties in probate, they actually have a couple of responsibilities in certain situations.

For one, if the court sets aside the will or the decedent’s surviving spouse elects to take against the will when the executor has already distributed the estate assets, the beneficiary must return the assets or proceeds thereof to the estate.

Moreover, beneficiaries are also liable to pay a creditor with a valid claim against the estate if the distribution has been made before the limitation for making a claim has ended.

Nonetheless, the beneficiaries’ liability should not exceed the amount the law allows.

Receiving proper guidance to ease the mind

Reasonably, beneficiaries have multiple questions and concerns about their rights and roles in the probate process. It can be overwhelming at first, but with the assistance of a compassionate and skilled estate attorney, beneficiaries can find peace of mind during the process.

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