If you believe that you may have been left a gift under a Will it is only natural to be curious as to what that gift is, or when you can expect to receive it. Your first port of call should be the executor, usually a family member or friend of the deceased. If you are on good terms they may tell you what was contained in the Will, although they might not be able to tell you when you can expect to receive this.
WHY THE LAYMAN EXECUTOR MIGHT NOT KNOW HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE FOR YOU TO GET YOUR GIFT.
They might not know this information just yet because distributing gifts to the beneficiaries is usually the last job of the executor. Before they distribute the gifts, they must calculate the value of the estate, see if there is any tax due, paid that tax if necessary, pay the debtors (the people owed money by the deceased or the estate), then and only then can they distribute the gifts. If they distribute the gifts to early and it turns out they should not have distributed the gift then they can find themselves personally liable.
TALKING TO SOLICITORS
If you have no luck discussing the matter with the executor for the estate, or the executor cannot answer your questions then you may be tempted to contact the firm of solicitors dealing with the estate on behalf of the executor.
There is nothing wrong with you attempting to contact the solicitors. It is perfectly OK for you to call the solicitor firm and ask to speak with the fee earner dealing with the estate with regards to your gift under the Will.
That being said, you may not get the response you desire, or any response at all. The solicitor may refuse to speak with you. Do not take this personally, it is not the solicitor being deliberately awkward, or unkind, they are not trying to cause you distress or dismissing your query. There are strict rules in place that the solicitor must follow or they could face severe consequences.
The solicitor firm must follow the rules of confidentiality set out by the Law Society. They have been instructed by the executors and not you, this means the executors are their client and they owe the executors a duty of confidentiality. This means they cannot discuss the estate with you unless the estate has gone to probate, or it is time to deliver the gift or the executors give them permission.
It may seem odd that the solicitor cannot speak to you, especially if you know that you are named in the Will as a beneficiary. This is because, as said above the solicitor is bound by certain rules, one of which is that the solicitor can only talk to the executors about the Will, until the Will goes to Probate and becomes a public document.
I understand that this can be frustrating but losing your cool with a fee earner or their secretary will not help, all losing your temper will achieve is your calls may be blocked. As said above the fee earner is not deliberately trying to make your life harder or unpleasant, they are bound by strict rules and breaching those rules can have far reaching consequences.
IS THERE A WAY AROUND THIS ISSUE
Yes, it is possible for you and the solicitor and the executor to get around this issue.
The best course of action is to speak to the executor and ask them to give the solicitor permission to speak with you. Once the solicitor receives that permission from their client they can talk to you. They might ask for the permission in writing to protect themselves, but once it is received you can discuss the estate and your potential gift with the solicitor without issue.
If your relationship with the executor is such that they might not give the solicitor permission to talk to you then you cannot force them to. It might seem unfair and unfortunate but if the executor refused to tell the solicitor it is OK to speak with you then there is nothing you can do about it.
But keep in mind that when the solicitors apply for Probate the Will becomes a public document and you will be able to view it in its entirety then.
You may just have to be patient.
In conclusion, if you want to see the Will, or discuss the process or progress of the Estate then you will either need to talk to the executor directly, wait until the Will becomes a public document or ask the executors to contact the solicitor firm and request that the firm discuss matters with you.
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