The rights of the beneficiary

The broad rights of a beneficiary are closely related to the duties of executors in administering the estate. Below are a number of common issues that may arise for a beneficiary.

  1. Can I obtain a copy of the will?

Yes. Section 33Z of the Succession Act 1981 (Qld) provides that a beneficiary named in a will (even a previous will) or a beneficiary entitled on intestacy is entitled to a copy of the Will.

  1. How long will it take for me to receive a distribution from the estate?

In Queensland, distributions will not usually be made in under 6 months. This is to allow the time limit for notice of family provision applications to expire. Most estates are usually administered within 12 months, but there are many reasons why the administration may take longer including:

a) the estate is involved in litigation, such as a family provision application. In such cases, no distributions can be made until the litigation is resolved; and

b) the estate involves assets which take longer to sell, such as a business or an unusual asset with a limited market.

  1. What is my interest in the assets of the estate while the estate is being administered

A beneficiary does not have any rights to the assets in the estate, even if they are left to them specifically in the will. A beneficiary instead has a right to the “due administration of the estate”. This is the right to make the executor undertake the administration of the estate properly and in a timely manner.

  1. What information does the Executor need to provide to me?

What information you are entitled to will depend upon what sort of entitlement you have been left in the will.

For example, if you receive a gift of a specific amount of money, then provided that money is paid to you, you  have a right to all of the details of the estate.

If, however, you receive the residue of the estate or a proportion of the residue of the estate, then you are entitled to all of the information about the estate to enable you to satisfy yourself that you have received your proper entitlements.

  1. Am I entitled to interest on my estate entitlements?

This again depends upon what kind of gift you have been left under the will.

If you have been left a share in the residue of the estate, then the executor has obligations to maximise the estate, which usually means making sure that the estate has been invested and earning interest.

If, however, you have been left a specific sum of money and it is not paid to you within 12 months, then you are entitled to legacy interest from the first anniversary of the deceased’s death, until the legacy is paid to you.

Further reading

Duties of the executor

Family provision applications