As a beneficiary, what are your rights in Ontario?

Someone close to you has passed away and you are named as a beneficiary in the Will; you are entitled to receive all or part of their estate. An executor is the person whom the deceased appointed to settle his or her estate upon death, distributing entitlements, paying debts, and filing their last income tax return.

As a beneficiary, what are your rights?

• You are entitled to receive your bequest from the executor as soon as he or she is able to release it. It is not unusual for executors to take a year or longer to complete all the tasks of administering an estate.

For large, complex estates where the deceased had many assets in different countries using sophisticated business structures including corporations and trusts, settling these may take years

• The beneficiary has a right to be notified when the estate executor applies to court for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee, also called probate.

Probate is a court process that confirms: 1) that the Will of the deceased was indeed the last valid Will and 2) appoints the executor of the estate. A beneficiary may object to the proposed executor being appointed.

• As a beneficiary, you are entitled to ask questions about the original assets of the estate as well as ongoing accounting of the estate. If an executor does not willingly produce, for example, invoices, receipts, and cancelled cheques, the beneficiary may consider compelling that the executor complete a court-supervised review of the accounts.

You may consider a legal action that is called a Compelling or Challenging a Passing of Accounts. We at Donnell Law Group have helped many beneficiaries with estate litigation and passing of accounts in Richmond Hill and York Region.

• In some cases, an executor does nothing at all. After several calls, emails and failed meeting attempts with the executor you may feel helpless because you have no control over the Will, Trust or Estate. In this case, a beneficiary can apply to have the executor removed.

A court order is required to remove an executor from his or her duties in settling an estate. Our Estate Litigation Group is here to help you.

• While executors are paid for their work in winding up an estate, beneficiaries have the right to approve or disallow the level of compensation.

Occasionally, beneficiaries may need to launch an Unjust Enrichment action against executors whose fees are disproportionate to the work performed. 

Additional reading here in The Globe and Mail about naming a beneficiary of your TFSA, RRSP or RRIF.

If you are concerned about how an executor handling a Will, Estate or Trust please connect with Donnell Law Group today. We service Richmond Hill and all of York Region.

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