What Are My Rights As a Beneficiary?

What Are My Rights as a Beneficiary

When you are named as the beneficiary of a trust or will, you are promised money, assets, or responsibilities that you will take on in the future. It may be aggravating to spend time waiting for what you were promised if probate litigation takes a long time. You may also experience tension and conflict with personal representatives, other beneficiaries, or trustees.

How can you obtain the assets you were promised in a timely fashion? What are your rights as a beneficiary?

Rights Regarding Personal Representatives

One of the first steps in probate litigation is the appointment of a personal representative. The personal representative manages and distributes an estate based on the written will a person left behind. They have a highly important (perhaps the most important) role in providing you with the inheritance you were promised.

You have the right to know as soon as probate administration is set to begin and a personal representative is named. If you do not want a party to be named as the personal representative, you have the right to file a caveat. This will stop a person’s will from entering probate. The caveat can be filed before or after the death of the individual in question.

Other rights regarding the personal representative, as listed in Florida Probate Code, include:

  • Right to notice of resignation/disqualification of personal representative (Florida Probate Code Section 733.502)
  • Right to petition for removal of personal representative (Florida Probate code Section 733.506)
  • Right to contest transaction affected by personal representative’s conflict of interest (Fla. Statute § 733.610)
  • Right to petition for increase or decrease in personal representative’s compensation or compensation of his/her attorney (Fla. Statute §§ 733.617; 733.6171)

Rights Regarding the Accounting

Once the personal representative is appointed, the beneficiaries have the right to view the estate’s accounting. This will include an inventory of the estate’s assets, the value of the assets, and how that value was obtained.

Florida Probate Law

When a personal representative is first named, beneficiaries have 90 days to challenge the validity of the will. You’ve probably heard of this as “contesting” a will. The beneficiaries also have the right to object to the accounting throughout by engaging in probate litigation.

These are just a few of the rights you have throughout the process regarding the accounting and valuing of the estate:

  • Right to enter into contract with interested persons to alter interests, shares, or amounts entitled to under will (Florida Statute § 733.815)
  • Right to inventory of safe deposit box (Fla. Prob. R. 5.342)
  • Right to object to creditor claim (Fl. Stat. § 733.705)
  • Right to object to personal representative’s proof of claim (Fl. Stat. 733.705)
  • Right to accounting filed by resigned or removed personal representative or curator who has been succeeded by personal representative. (Fla. Prob. R. 5.345.)
  • Right to enter into contract with interested persons to alter interests, shares, or amounts entitled to under will (Florida Statute § 733.815)

Right to Timely Acquisition of Inheritance

Probate litigation is often time-consuming, and beneficiaries will not receive their inheritance until the estate is fully valued and creditors are paid. This does not mean, however, that beneficiaries should have to wait years until they get their inheritance (unless of course, the estate is so complex that it takes years to administer).

Beneficiaries are able to file an accounting and give the personal representative deadlines for the administration of the estate. Throughout probate, beneficiaries have the right to request notice of further proceedings so they can keep track of the administration’s timeline. They should always be able to access and understand the length of the probate process.

Probate can take years in some cases, and many different financial and personal conflicts can arise from administering someone’s will. The best way to ensure your inheritance and your involvement in the process is to work with an experienced Florida probate attorney.

About the Author: 

Christopher Q. Wintter is the founder of Wintter & Associates, P.A. and a board-certified expert in Trust and Estate matters by the Florida Bar. With more than 28 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers for 2011, 2012, 2014-1016 in Estate and Trust Litigation, and was selected for inclusion to the Best Lawyers in America in 2016.