The Rights and Responsibilities of a Will Beneficiary

The Rights and Responsibilities of a Will Beneficiary

If you are entrusted with an inheritance after the death of a loved one, you become a beneficiary. In the role of beneficiary, you are awarded certain rights and responsibilities for receiving and managing the assets, be they cash, personal property or investments. The executor must reveal certain information to you regarding the stipulations of the will, but you are not owed anything beyond what has been assigned to your name. Know your rights and responsibilities as a beneficiary to act appropriately.

The Rights of a Beneficiary

When you are notified of assets that have been left for you, it is imperative to know your rights regarding those assets and any related information. The executor of the will is in charge of managing the protection and distribution of the benefactor’s assets and must inform you of specific points concerning your inheritance.

Reasonable Diligence

The executor of the will has a responsibility to deliver the inheritance due to a beneficiary within a “reasonable” time following probate proceedings. The general timeframe is typically one year, although this can change in certain situations. If an executor needs more time to deliver the inheritance, he or she must have a verifiable reason.

Statement of Distribution

The beneficiary has a right to receive a statement of distribution from the executor to show how the portion of the inheritance was calculated. If the calculations do not match the beneficiary’s expectations according to the will and/or probate proceedings, the amount can be disputed. Beneficiaries do not, however, have a right to any information about the benefactor’s assets beyond their individual portion of the inheritance.

View the Will in its Entirety

The executor is not legally required to read or show the entire will to the beneficiaries. In some cases, an executor will meet with each beneficiary separately to discuss their entitlement. A beneficiary can make a formal request to the executor to view a copy of the will. If there are any expenses related to sending the copy, the beneficiary may be responsible.

The Responsibilities of a Beneficiary

Becoming the beneficiary of an inheritance does not come without obligations. There may be specific stipulations regarding the management of funds or external liabilities to adhere to. Make sure to know what is expected of you before spending a single dime.

Account Management

Once a beneficiary has received an entitlement, they are responsible for managing the finances. In some cases, there may be specific instructions left by the benefactor for how the assets should be managed, or the assets may come in the form of an investment. It is the duty of the beneficiary to responsibly manage the funds or to hire an accountant to watch over the account.

Liability Adherence

The executor must notify the beneficiary of any taxes or extra costs to be paid on the inheritance. Depending on the estate planning strategies used, a large portion of the entitlement may be taken away for tax purposes. It is the responsibility of the beneficiary to pay these taxes or they may be guilty of tax evasion.


In the event that an estate owes more than it owns in disposable assets, abatement may be necessary to pay off debtors. Outstanding loans must be paid off prior to distributing assets among beneficiaries. The court will then calculate the appropriate division of the remaining assets to the beneficiaries based on the percentage of the full inheritance that was due to them.

Taking the time to learn about expectations regarding your inheritance can help you understand how to manage it properly. You are entitled to certain information from the executor and expected to act in accordance with the law.