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Who Contacts Will Beneficiaries?

Posted on Wed Dec 6, 2023, on Probate and Estate Administration

From Our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: “My Grandmother died last year, and I believe I am in her Will, but I have not received any notifications. Who Contacts Will Beneficiaries?”

Who Contacts Will Beneficiaries

Probate Lawyer Daniella Horn

Who Contacts Will Beneficiaries?

If a deceased person dies with assets that pass through a Will, the document must be correctly filed with the county. Each state has its system. For example, in New Jersey, the Will is filed with the surrogate, while in Pennsylvania, it is filed with the Register of Wills. In other states, the Will is filed with a court. While the systems differ, they all agree that an “Executor” is not an “Executor” until the state appoints them. Until appointed, you are simply a “potential” Executor.

The system does two things once the Executor submits the Will and accompanying petition. First, it authenticates the Will and death certificate. Second, it officially appoints the Executor and provides the Executor with documentation proving the appointment.

While the person named in the Will is typically appointed the Executor, another person can be named if the nominee declines the job or the Register finds that person unsuitable.

Who then contacts the Will Beneficiaries? How about other family members who may have been excluded from the Will? In most states, the Executor must notify both the named beneficiaries AND the family members who would inherit if the deceased died without a Will must be informed. This way, if an interested person wishes to challenge the Will, they can do so within the statute of limitations.

What if the Executor Fails to Notify Beneficiaries?

An Executor’s failure to notify a beneficiary is grounds for Executor Removal. Furthermore, ignoring this fundamental responsibility raises questions about what the Executor may have done with estate assets. You may want your Estate Accounting Lawyer to file a petition with the court forcing the Executor to file a Formal Accounting.  

If the Executor has not even filed the Will, you may have your probate lawyer file a petition to force the Will’s filing and remove the Executor.

Does the Executor Give Me a Copy of the Will?

Once filed, a Will is available to the public. In most states, the Executor must inform a beneficiary that the Will has been filed but is not required to provide a copy. Typically, the Executor does send a copy. You can get one from the county if the Executor has not offered you a copy. 

But, if the Executor has not filed the Will, then you must ask the Executor for a copy. If the Executor refuses to provide a copy, your Will challenge lawyer can petition, and the court will issue an order giving you a copy. 

In Conclusion:

Want to learn more about Probate? For more information, follow this link to learn more about the Probate Process.

I hope you found this short article answering Who Contacts Will Beneficiaries? I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you are an heir and have questions about an unresponsive executor, contact us. Let our Estate Planning lawyers help. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. 

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