Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP - Estate Planning

What Are My Rights as a Will Beneficiary?

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Estate planning can produce many different legal disputes since there are usually so many different people involved in a will or trust. One very important group of people that are vital to any estate planning will are the beneficiaries to that will.

A beneficiary is someone to whom a deceased benefactor (also known as the decedent) gives real and personal property, money or other assets. The will must define who the decedent appoints as a beneficiary and the inheritance that they are to receive. If you have been named as a beneficiary to a family member or loved one's will, it's important that you also know your legal rights in case any probate problems occur.

What Are My Rights as a Beneficiary?

  • Delegation and Inheritance: As a beneficiary, you have every legal right to know that you have been appointed as a beneficiary, and with that, you have the right to know what you will inherit. However, you are not entitled to receive or view your inheritance until all probate is completed. Not until then can any ownership of property actually be transferred to you.
  • Reasonable diligence: The executor of the will is required to exercise reasonable diligence to the beneficiaries when administering the estate. The definition of reasonable might depend on certain state probate laws, but most states require a range of time. In general, the executor should transfer ownership of property of all beneficiaries' inheritance within a year after the decedent has died.
  • Information about the estate: Contrary to popular belief, beneficiaries do not have the right to any general information about the estate beyond the inheritance they are to receive. This includes any information about other beneficiaries' inheritance that is not already outlined in the will.
  • Abatement: This is the process of paying off an estate's assets in order to cover its outstanding debts and liabilities. If this is the case for the estate involved with the will you've been named in as a beneficiary, your rights come second after the rights of the estate's creditors. The estate won't be able to bestow any property or assets that it doesn't fully owe, so it's important that the estate liquidates its debts first, so it can legally give you your inheritance.

If you would like to know more about your beneficiary representation during an estate dispute, you should talk to an experienced estate planning lawyer. Contact Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP today for a free consultation.

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