Question : Does an Executor appointed under the last Will of a deceased person have a right to see a previously revoked Will stored by a law firm?
Answer : once probate is granted the Will is a public document (except in very limited circumstances). When probate is granted, any person can then apply to the Probate Registry for a copy of the Will, whether or not they are a beneficiary or have any other interest in the estate.
Residuary beneficiaries also benefit from a duty of care that entitles them to request access and be supplied with copies of all estate accounts that detail the composition of the estate and its liabilities so that they might ascertain and agree to the calculation of their inheritance.
Beneficiaries’ Rights and Remedies
The Basic Position
Beneficiaries of a deceased individual’s estate naturally want to know that the estate is being effectively administered by the personal representatives (PRs) and usually will wish to receive their entitlements under the Will or intestacy as soon as possible.
Section 44 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (AEA 1925) gives executors and administrators at least a year from the date of death before beneficiaries can call on them to distribute any part of the estate.
Rights Of Beneficiaries During The Administration
While the estate is being administered, the ownership of the deceased’s unadministered assets lies with the PRs for the purposes of administration, without any distinction between legal and equitable interests.
No beneficiary in the meantime, whether under the deceased’s Will or intestacy, has any proprietary interest in any particular asset comprised in the unadministered estate.
The beneficiary’s entitlement during the administration is to a chose in action, ie the right to require the deceased’s estate to be duly administered.
The choice in action is transmissible, inter vivos or on death.
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