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Beneficiaries' rights to information

View profile for Robert Weston
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We receive several enquiries from beneficiaries to an estate where they believe the personal representative of the estate is not forthcoming with information or their entitlement. Do personal representatives need to keep beneficiaries informed and what should a beneficiary do if they believe the personal representatives are not performing their duties fully?

A personal representative’s duties are outlined in section 25 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925. These are to collect and administer the Deceased’s estate, exhibit a full inventory of the estate (complete inheritance tax forms) and when required render an account of the administration, and finally when required, deliver up a grant of probate or administration to court. Therefore, the executor does not have a specific duty to keep beneficiaries informed under legislation.

The Administration of Estates Act 1925 does not explicitly confirm these duties are owed to beneficiaries, but it is well-established in case law that beneficiaries have an action against the personal representatives for the purposes of administering the estate. Therefore, what should a beneficiary do and when should they act?

The first step for a beneficiary to take is to see whether a grant of probate has been issued. This can be done by checking on the government website using the Deceased’s name and date of death. If they cannot see a relevant entry, probate has not yet been granted. For a small fee each, a standing search or a caveat can be placed on the estate. A standing search will inform you if an application is made for a grant of probate in respect of the Deceased’s estate, while a caveat will prohibit a probate application from being granted.

A beneficiary should also be aware that an estate can take some time to administer fully, but questions should be raised if the personal representative has failed to administer an estate 12 months after the Deceased’s death, unless they have a good reason.

We can assist and advise beneficiaries where they believe personal representatives are failing to administer to the estate, and we are happy to provide initial free of charge advice on the telephone and to set a fixed fee for a more detailed response.

Our contentious probate team specialises in all aspects of contentious probate and is consistently ranked in the top tier of The Legal 500. The team is headed up by Robert Weston, who is listed in The Legal 500 as a “leading individual” and was the instructing solicitor for the successful party in the landmark judgment of Walker v Badmin.  Robert, together with Suzanne Lee and Andrew Chandler are all full members of The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and represent clients both nationwide and abroad in both bringing and defending claims. 

If you have a contentious probate matter which you would like to discuss with a specialist solicitor with a view to instructing mfg Solicitors LLP, please visit https://www.mfgsolicitors.com/site/services-for-me/contentious-probate/  for further information and contact details.

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