20th SEPTEMBER 2021
When someone passes away leaving a valid Will, the Will does not become a public document until after a grant of probate has been acquired. Therefore, the beneficiaries are unable to read the Will to determine what they are owed from the estate.
The amount of time it takes for the beneficiaries to be notified of their inheritance depends on the executor of the Will.
Who is responsible for notifying the beneficiaries?
The executor or administrator of the estate is solely responsible for notifying the beneficiaries of their inheritance following someone’s death. In cases where there is a valid Will, the executor is the only person who is entitled to read the document before a grant of probate has been acquired. When there is no valid Will, it is down to the administrator to determine who is owed portions of the estate according to the Rules of Intestacy.
The executor or administrator of an estate has a responsibility to ensure that all beneficiaries are kept in the loop about the probate process from the start. This includes notifying the beneficiaries of their inheritance as soon as possible to avoid confusion down the line.
If a loved one or close relative of yours has passed away and you believe that you may be a beneficiary to their estate, you should make yourself known to the executor or administrator if they have not already contacted you.
What if a beneficiary can’t be found?
It should be relatively simple to locate the beneficiaries of a Will after someone dies; mostly, people name family members or close friends who are involved in their lives up until the end. However, if there is a beneficiary listed in the Will who is estranged or hasn’t been heard from recently, there are several things the executor can do.
If the executor has already contacted all friends and family of the deceased to ask whether they know where this person might be, they might consider hiring a genealogist company to trace the beneficiary using official records.
Failing this, the executor should take out an S27 notice in a newspaper local to the beneficiary’s last known location. This will protect the executor somewhat against any claims made by the missing beneficiary later as it gives them two months to make themselves known.
Despite this protection, it is still possible for a beneficiary to show up in the future and make a claim if they did not receive their inheritance. To avoid any issues, it is recommended that the executor creates an account containing the exact amount of money owed to that beneficiary and keeps it safe until the beneficiary eventually gets in contact.
If the executor does not want the responsibility of holding onto this money, they can ask each of the other beneficiaries to sign a written agreement that they will hold onto a portion of the lost beneficiary’s share and pay it back to them should they ever come forward.