Legal News | 21.09.23
Missing beneficiaries – what can an executor do?
Executors have a responsibility to ensure that the deceased’s estate is distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will. However, distributing an estate where a beneficiary is not known or is missing can make the process a lot more difficult.
There are practical steps that executors can take to help track down a missing beneficiary and these include:
- Talking to the friends, neighbours and family of the deceased to find out if they knew the beneficiary and where the beneficiary can be found.
- An internet and social media search for the missing beneficiary.
- Placing a notice in a local and/or national newspaper.
- Search for birth, death and marriage records via the General Register Office.
- Instruct a genealogy firm to investigate and trace the beneficiaries for you.
It is worth bearing in mind that an executor must be able to show that reasonable steps have been taken to find a beneficiary before an estate is distributed. If not, a missing beneficiary may present themselves in the future and bring a claim against the estate. In this instance, the executors can be found personally liable.
If an executor is unable to find a beneficiary, it is recommended that executors take further measures to protect themselves before distributing the estate. These further measures could include obtaining missing beneficiary indemnity insurance, keeping a reserve fund or seeking a court order (known as a Benjamin Order). These protective measures can be expensive, so it is always worth seeking legal advice first.