When a loved one leaves you a portion of his or her estate, you have certain rights under California law. Understanding your rights as a beneficiary can help you ensure the fair fulfillment of your family member’s wishes.
Get started with this guide to beneficiary rights in California.
Right to receive written information about the estate
The executor of the estate must provide documentation at the request of beneficiaries. You can ask to see financial information such as trustee fees, estate expenses and bank statements. You also have the right to review the deceased person’s will and any existing trust documents.
Although annual updates are standard, you can request accounting from the court at any time if you suspect an executor or trustee has mismanaged estate funds. You should also let the court know if the executor or trustee ignores your requests for information.
Right to intestate inheritance
If your family member dies without a will or if the court determines that the will is invalid, the person’s estate is subject to intestate inheritance laws. If the deceased had a spouse or domestic partner, he or she will receive all community property acquired during the marriage and half of the deceased’s separate property. The remaining half will go to a surviving child of the deceased person. However, the law becomes complicated with regard to multiple children and grandchildren.
Right to contest the will
A beneficiary can contest a will or trust when he or she feels it is invalid. The executor or trustee cannot disinherit you from the estate for enforcing your legal right to contest the will. You can even file an objection when the will or trust contains a no-contest clause.
When you exercise your right to monitor the executor or trustee of your loved one’s estate, you can remain aware of potential mismanagement. Doing so protects your financial interests and supports the execution of your deceased family member’s intentions.