How do I find out if I'm owed inheritance?

Published 25 Oct 2018

Author: Garbis Kolokossian

Australians are among the most generous people in the world when it comes to inheritance. The country topped a HSBC ranking that tracked the amount of money bequeathed to loved ones globally, with Aussies leaving behind US$501,919 (AU$705,375) on average.

These financial legacies can have a huge impact on people's lives. Estate beneficiaries are more likely to have better educational qualifications, higher levels of savings and greater income from investments, according to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.

So, how do you know if an inheritance is heading your way? The answer to this question may depend on various factors.

Wait for the executor to get in touch

Beneficiaries of an estate must be informed if they have been mentioned in the deceased's Will. This means you can often simply wait for the executor to contact you about the extent and nature of your legacy.

You won't receive a copy of the Will unless you formally request one, but the executor should provide an approximate date for when your inheritance is due for release.

If a loved one dies and you don't hear from anyone, get in touch with the executor directly to check the status of the estate's distribution. You may not have been included in the Will, so pursuing a family provision claim could be an option for those who are eligible under the Succession Act 2006.

What happens if no one can find me?

When someone dies intestate, their assets may pass to a distant relative or estranged family members. Tracking down these beneficiaries can be difficult, especially if they live overseas.

Executors must show they have made every effort to locate potential beneficiaries, but this isn't always possible. In these circumstances, you may not even be aware that you are entitled to an inheritance.

NSW Trustee and Guardian has a Lost Dollars section on its website that lists estates where a next of kin could not be established or found. The organisation retains the proceeds from the state for six years before passing them to the Treasury.

Pursuing an inheritance dispute

Anyone writing a Will is expected to show a moral duty to financially provide for their loved ones, particularly dependants such as spouses and children. The deceased must therefore have convincing reasons to disinherit those closest to them.

If you have been excluded from a Will, contact an experienced family provision claims expert to discuss what to do next. At Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers, we can help you contest a Will through our comprehensive no-win, no-fee service.

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