Does a beneficiary have a right to see estate accounts?

If you are a residuary beneficiary and have been refused sight of the estate accounts, then contact our team of experts for guidance on your options.

Inheritance lawyer, Naomi Ireson, looks at the circumstances in which a beneficiary has the right to see estate accounts? And what are the consequences for an executor who refuses to let a beneficiary see the accounts?

Every beneficiary has the right to see estate accounts

Historically, case law suggested that “every beneficiary is entitled to see the trust accounts” (see for example the decision in Armitage v Nurse) and that trust accounts and other estate documents must be disclosed to all beneficiaries on demand, save in exceptional circumstances (as in the case of Schmidt v Rosewood Trust).

This position was reaffirmed in a more recent case where the court ruled that the beneficiaries (who were charities) did indeed have every right to see the accounts in so far as they were applicable to them.

In this case, the deceased, Evelyn Farmer, had appointed Headleys Solicitors as her executors.  Her Will created two life interests for adult beneficiaries (her son and daughter-in-law) with the remainder of her estate passing to ten named charities.  The charities as the residuary beneficiaries understandably asked to see the final estate accounts.

However, having repeatedly asked the executors’ solicitors to provide accounts over a period of 10 years, they were never produced.  The provisional estate accounts were provided, but that was the last piece of information the charities received for many years.

Court action taken by beneficiaries who were denied their right to see estate accounts

The charities therefore instructed solicitors to obtain the estate accounts.  Litigation was commenced but the executors failed to attend the court hearing.  One executor had died and the remaining one simply ignored the case.  He was ordered to provide the estate accounts to the charities and required to pay the charities’ legal costs in full, without the right to claim them back from the estate.

How we can help you

If you are a residuary beneficiary of an estate and wish to see the estate accounts, we would be happy to help. We can contact the executors on your behalf and formally set out the legal basis for your request. If the executors continue to refuse to acknowledge your right to see the estate accounts then we can make an application for a court order, seeking a costs order against them. The threat of court action coupled with a costs order is often sufficient to bring awkward executors to their senses and agree to disclose the estate accounts.

We are happy to assess your case before you commit to incurring legal fees. You can call our free helpline on 0333 888 0409. Alternatively you can send brief details to us by email at [email protected]


Does a beneficiary have a right to see estate accounts?