What should you do if a beneficiary cannot be found?
Posted on 11th August 2021 at 16:39
If someone is assigned the responsibility of being the administrator of an estate, it is their job to ensure that only those lawfully entitled benefit from the will. In the event of there being a will in place more than one administrator can be appointed. However, when an individual dies intestate or without a Will, distribution of the property and money becomes much more complicated more so if the beneficiary is missing.
When a person is named as an inheritor to a will they are known as the beneficiary. In case the beneficiary is untraceable, it can become difficult for the administrator to execute the will. It generally happens when the deceased benefactor is out of touch with the person named as the beneficiary and they cannot be found.
In the event a beneficiary does not get their due share as per the will, the administrator may be legally liable to pay out the share themselves. Therefore, to indemnify themselves against such a situation, the administrator must take necessary action to trace the missing beneficiary before the distribution of the estate.
Steps to take if the beneficiary is untraceable
If unable to track a beneficiary, it is necessary to get in touch with the benefactor’s relatives and friends to confirm if they might have information about them. Another option is to use a genealogical service to be able to track the beneficiary. There can be a provision in the estate to use their services. Another option is to have an S27 notice placed in the local newspaper (of the beneficiary’s last known residence). This gives the beneficiary 6 days to stake their claim. It does not reduce the possibility of a claim being staked later but affords some protection.
Some other options include:
Keeping the share of the beneficiary aside to be paid to them when they do get in touch. It is the best option for small estates as other beneficiaries’ payments are not held up.
The next option is to share the missing beneficiary’s share with other beneficiaries and get a written undertaking from each to refund the extra amount paid if the missing beneficiary is found. It covers an indemnity policy. Caution needs to be exercised in using this option because there is the risk of the beneficiaries spending the money received before the claim is exercised.
The next is to distribute the shares and get an insurance policy, that will cover the amount if the beneficiary is found. This could be arranged through a professional probate company specialising in the distribution of estate cases.
There is the option of doing things through the legal system by getting a Benjamin Order. This is issued by a court of law under the assumption that the beneficiary is deceased. If at a later stage the missing beneficiary stakes their claim from the remaining beneficiaries, the administrator is indemnified under the Benjamin Order. Although, the process is lengthy and also quite expensive.
Finally, it is recommended to hire the services of a specialist, if you have been assigned the role of administrator of an estate so that you do not become legally liable.
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