A person who receives property or a share of an estate under a will has certain rights as soon as the will is probated. Probate, a court proceeding that affirms the will's validity and gives the executor the legal authority to distribute the estate, is designed to protect the rights of will beneficiaries.
Timely Transfers and Information
A beneficiary has the right to receive the share he got under the will in a timely manner and to receive written notice of the probate proceedings. How long it takes the executor to settle an estate depends on various factors, including the estate's size and what type of property the decedent owned. For example, if the decedent owned real estate and the property must be sold, the executor has to put the property up for sale, find a buyer and close the deal. In this case, the beneficiaries may have to wait months before receiving the sale proceeds.
Will beneficiaries are entitled to information about the estate, including the property the decedent owned and the property's values and his debt. An executor must give a will beneficiary information about the estate if she requests it, and she has the right to see the will itself and documents related to the estate, such as the funeral bill.
A beneficiary may ask the executor for an account of what he's done on behalf of the estate. An account should be in writing, and the executor is expected to provide supporting papers, such as receipts or canceled checks for payments, proof of asset transfers and statements from any estate bank accounts. The supporting papers must match up with the information on the account the executor provides.
Proper Will Administration
The will beneficiaries are entitled to an executor who performs his duties fully and honestly. An executor must not act in a way that harms the estate. He cannot favor one beneficiary over another, behave in a dishonest or illegal manner or fail to live up to his legal obligations. A will beneficiary may petition the court if she believes the executor isn't performing his duties properly, but she must have proof to support her complaint. For example, if she believes the executor is taking money from the estate to cover personal expenses, she'll need financial statements that back up this allegation. If the court agrees with the beneficiary, the court may remove the executor and revoke his authority.
Executor Compensation Approval
Beneficiaries have the right to approve or deny the level of compensation an executor requests for his services. Not all executors are paid; a relative may act as executor and waive compensation. If the court granted an executor's compensation request before the estate is settled without the beneficiaries' approval, the beneficiaries may challenge the amount later. If the court finds the executor received an excessive amount of compensation, the executor may have to pay the beneficiaries back with interest.
Read More: Can the Executor Give Personal Items Away Without an Heir's Approval?
Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.