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Probate and identifying beneficiaries

3rd July 2023

Acting as executor of an estate under a will can be complicated and demanding at the best of times, but this can be particularly challenging when it is not clear as to whom are the beneficiaries.

If you are the executor of an estate, you have a duty to make sure all the assets in the estate are distributed to the right people, and in line with the deceased’s will. 

For your Executors to distribute your estate in line with your will, they will need to identify those people named as beneficiaries in the will. 

We recommend keeping contact details (where possible) and making sure these are regularly updated, together with anything else necessary to identify a beneficiary.  

Whilst it should be reasonably clear when gifts are left to spouses and children, for example, it is important that your executors are also able to identify any friends who are left gifts.

Problems can arise where beneficiaries are not specifically named, for example: “my carer” or “my gardener”.  

Unless, otherwise specified in the will, it will be the person fitting the description when the will was signed, even if they have since left that position.

The Gender Recognition Act (GRA) came into force from 4 April 2005.  This provides that a person previously a son, but recognised as a female through GRC can still inherit under a clause in the will leaving £x to “my daughter”.  

The GRA does not apply to wills made before 4 April 2005.

If the Executors cannot satisfy themselves as to the correct identity of a beneficiary named in the will, the gift would be voided due to the uncertainty.

Further information

Bishop Fleming’s Estate and Probate team are well equipped to review your personal circumstances, provide you with an estimate of your exposure to inheritance tax and provide advice on mitigating that exposure.

You can find more information on our Estate Planning and Probate Services page.

If you would like to discuss how taxation of the family can impact your decisions, please contact a member of our Estate Planning & Probate team who will be pleased to talk to you.

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