I am a Beneficiary of a Will – What Can I Expect?

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A beneficiary is someone who receives something in a Will. You might get a sum of money, some land or property or a particular item (for example jewellery).

It is quite common for someone to get a share in “the residue”. This is whatever is left over after all the gifts have been given out.

Generally, the solicitor who is dealing with the case will contact you if you are a beneficiary. Usually you will get a letter, showing you what the will says and telling you what you will receive.

At this stage you are not entitled to a copy of the Will unless the executor gives permission. The executor is the person in charge of carrying out the terms of the will (usually a friend or family member chosen by the deceased). Eventually the Will is lodged in the Probate Office (a government registry) and will become a public document which anyone can look at. This is why the newspapers are able to publish details of people’s Wills.

The solicitor who writes to you will give you an idea of when you will receive your inheritance. The length of time it takes depends on how complex the property of the deceased person was. It is not unreasonable for you to ask the solicitor to be updated regularly as to when you will get the gift.

If your share in the estate isn’t a particular sum or item, the solicitor won’t know exactly how much you are going to receive until all of the accounts have been finalised. This can take some time, but it is reasonable for you to ask for an “interim distribution”. This is where you get some of the money in advance.


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If you receive a particular item such as jewellery or a piece of land, there generally isn’t any good reason why you can’t be given that straight away. Indeed, the executor might prefer to give it to you as soon as possible so that they don’t have any further responsibility for it.

If you received a share in whatever is left over (“the residue”), you are entitled to receive a letter at the beginning of the case from the solicitor telling you what the costs will be. At the end of the case, you are entitled to receive the “executor’s account” which sets out all of the figures involved.

If you are unhappy with the way the case is going, you can go to a solicitor and take legal action so that you can recover what is due to you. This can’t be done until a year after the death. The executors are allowed this period to make progress in dealing with the case.

You may have to pay inheritance tax on what you receive. Unless you are living abroad, the solicitor dealing with the case will generally not deal with your tax return for you. There are many rules dealing with inheritance tax, for example, you may be entitled to a tax free sum or you may have to pay tax at 30% of what you receive. You need to take tax advice if you are a beneficiary.

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