Are beneficiaries of an estate entitled to accounts?
Posted on 15th January 2020
As local probate solicitors, we are often asked at what point will the executors be provided with estate accounts and, more importantly, who do the executors have to provide estate accounts to.
A common misconception is that family members of the deceased are always entitled to see estate accounts; and our team understand why a lot of people would think this. It could be upsetting to learn that you’re not entitled to know what is going on with your loved one’s estate. However, if the deceased left a Will, naming beneficiaries of the residuary estate, only they are entitled to know the contents of the Will, and therefore have any look over the estate accounts. If the deceased did not leave a Will, their estate will be distributed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy, which you can read about, here.
For those of you who are lucky enough to have not lost a relative, and therefore you may not have had to go through the process of dealing with an estate, estate accounts show the flow of money both in and out of the deceased’s estate. If, as your local probate solicitors, we are dealing with the deceased’s estate on your behalf, we will advise the executors of their duty to follow the correct procedure and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the estate, whether or not this includes them.
So, what if you’re left a gift in a Will?
When a specific sum of money is left to a beneficiary, it’s known as a Pecuniary Legacy. These beneficiaries are not entitled to see a copy of the estate accounts, and they are not, generally, entitled to more than the stated share.
The residuary beneficiaries are those who are entitled to a share of the estate, after all of the estate expenses and Pecuniary Legacies have been paid. The reason that these beneficiaries are entitled to estate accounts, is because the amount they will receive is directly impacted by the way the Estate has been administered. For example, the liabilities paid and the assets received will be included on these accounts.
There are exceptions to the general rules about estate accounts, however:
• If there are insufficient funds in an estate, and a Pecuniary Legacy cannot be paid in full, the beneficiary may be able to see a copy of the accounts.
• Again, if there are insufficient funds in an estate, any beneficiaries or creditors whose interests and liabilities cannot be paid in full could require sight of a copy of the estate accounts.
• If there are beneficiaries of the estate who are minors and residuary beneficiaries, their parents or guardians could be entitled to see a copy of the estate accounts.
What will be in the estate accounts?
There are no specific rules about the format of estate accounts, but they will generally contain a summary of the terms of the Will (or how the estate will pass under the Rules of Intestacy), a schedule of any investments, distribution statements and a balance sheet of capital and income.
The accounts should contain a complete record of all the financial transactions that have been made during the administration of the estate, from the date of death through to completion. The estate accounts do not have to be finalised and shared with those entitled to see them until the Estate is finalised.
If the Residuary Beneficiary does not receive a copy of the Estate Accounts after the estate has been finalised, and if they request it, they can apply to the Probate Registry for an Order for Inventory and Account.
MG Legal- Your Local Solicitors
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