As the Beneficiary of a Will, you have certain rights that should be upheld, however it can be difficult to understand exactly what these rights are. The Estate Lawyers at Hentys have put together this article to fully explain your rights as a Beneficiary in obtaining information and documents from the Trustee.
Who is the Beneficiary of a Will?
Beneficiaries are individuals or legal entities that receive a gift or inheritance from a will. A Beneficiary of a will has certain legal rights to ensure that their inheritance is duly managed and transferred to them in accordance with the terms of the will.
Who is the Trustee of a Will?
The Trustee of a Will acts as the legal owner of trust assets, and is responsible for handling any of the assets held in trust, tax filings for the trust, and distributing the assets according to the terms of any trust created in the will.
The Duties of the Trustee
The primary duty of the Trustee is to become fully acquainted with the terms of the Trust that they have been appointed to undertake. This will require due consideration of the document which created the Trust (most often the Will), as well as other available documents which relate to, or affect, the Trust property. The Trustee must at all times adhere strictly to the terms of the Trust.
The Trustee has a general duty to make the Trust fund profitable for the benefit of the Beneficiaries and as such, must invest Trust funds in accordance with the terms of the Will or otherwise as provided by law. If the Trustee doesn’t act in this way, they may be liable to compensate any Beneficiaries who suffer a loss as a result of their breach of this duty.
In accordance with the Trustee Act, the Trustee must:
- Act in the best interests of all present and future Beneficiaries;
- Ensure that investments are not speculative or hazardous;
- Act impartially towards Beneficiaries and different classes of Beneficiaries; and
- Take professional advice where necessary (the cost of which can be paid from trust funds)
The Rights of the Beneficiary
The Trustee must keep proper accounts, which Beneficiaries are entitled to inspect. The accounts must provide a clear and accurate record of receipts and payments, and be supported by relevant documentation where applicable. Beneficiaries have a prima facie right of access to documents and information in relation to the trust.
While the Trustee is not obliged to volunteer documents or information to Beneficiaries, at the request of the Beneficiary, the Trustee must (in most cases) provide these documents and information. The Beneficiary is responsible for any costs incurred as a result of this process.
It should be noted that the Beneficiaries’ right to inspect documents is limited to trust documents only, so the Trustee is not obliged to disclose documents which are not property of the trust. For example, in some cases, the Trustee will prepare documents for his or her own purposes that do not need to be disclosed, such as:
- correspondence between Trustees
- correspondence between Trustees and Beneficiaries
- other documents disclosing considerations of Trustees, such as notes of discussions among themselves or with the Beneficiaries, as well as information provided by the Beneficiaries after the date of death.
In some cases the Beneficiary may not be granted access to Trust documents when certain circumstances occur.
For more information on your rights as the Beneficiary of a will, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Hentys Lawyers.