“What happens if a beneficiary of a will can’t be found” and other common inheritance questions

Coping with the grief that comes with the loss of a close friend or relative is one of life’s hardest challenges and can be overwhelming and intense even as time passes by.

Respecting your lost loved one’s final wishes is an act so many of us have to face during this difficult period. Whether you’re the executor or a beneficiary, you’ll have several questions about the probate process and the resulting inheritance. Here we aim to answer the most common…

When does an executor have to pay the beneficiaries of the will?

Most estates take 9 to 12 months to administer, but this timescale can be as quick as three months if there are no property sales required and the monetary assets are housed in just one bank account. If the estate contains foreign property or assets, or is investigated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the probate process could be considerably longer.

How long do banks take to release money after probate? 

Many banks require the evidence of either a grant of probate or grant of letters of administration (which may be applicable when a person dies without a will in place) to release money after probate. Banks however will release a certain amount without seeing these legal documents up to a certain limit.

Limits differ from bank to bank, with the threshold for probate ranging from £5,000 to £50,000. These thresholds and the overall value of the deceased’s estate will impact how long it takes for the bank to release funds.

When can inheritance money be distributed?

As an executor, your role is to collect assets and settle liabilities before those final wishes can be granted in accordance with a valid will.

Inheritance money can be distributed after these tasks have been completed and the grant of probate has been issued. It is however advisable that executors wait six months after receiving the grant of probate before distributing any inheritance money or assets in case the will is contested.

Executors posting statutory advertisements, i.e. notices of death in the local media, should also wait at least two months to distribute inheritance money to safeguard themselves from the personal liability of claims made later down the line. 

How long do I have to contest a will?

Under the Inheritance Act, family members have six months from the date of issue of the grant of probate to make a claim against a will. 

The six-month time limit however only applies to some claim types, such as the claim for maintenance. A beneficiary making a claim against the estate has 12 years from the date of death to contest. Whilst claims relating to fraud are subject to no time limit.

What happens if a beneficiary of a will can’t be found?

If a beneficiary named in the will cannot be found, it falls to the executor of the will to make reasonable attempts to trace them before the estate is distributed. 

If information from friends and relatives proves fruitless, using statutory advertisements (or S27 notices) posted in newspapers circulating the deceased’s last known area of residence is the next step. As we mentioned earlier, a timeframe of at least two months should be observed after the use of statutory advertisements.

If the beneficiary is still not forthcoming, the executor can choose to hold back the funds of the missing beneficiary or distribute them amongst the known beneficiaries. With the latter, the known beneficiaries will have to sign an agreement to state that they will return the money if the missing beneficiary is found. Alternatively, an insurance policy can be used to reimburse the funds of a missing beneficiary upon their return.

Get help from experts in Will Writing Services today and don’t wait until it’s too late.


About Charles Knox 1393 Articles
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