How should I communicate with beneficiaries and potential heirs of the estate?

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Executors should initiate conversations promptly after the passing of the deceased, providing clear information about the probate process, including steps, timelines, potential delays, and the roles involved.

Written communication, such as formal letters or emails, not only ensures that details are documented but also provides beneficiaries with a reference point. An executor is obligated to keep beneficiaries “reasonably” informed throughout the estate administration process and to answer inquiries made by beneficiaries in a timely manner. What is reasonable depends on the circumstances and estate administration can take months or years to complete.

If the executor is not communicating with beneficiaries and delay is becoming an issue, a court application can be brought to compel the executor to complete the administration of the estate and distribute the estate’s assets.

Beneficiaries should be provided with enough information to ensure the estate administration process is progressing and that the estate is being administered in accordance with the terms of the Will. At the start of the process, the executor must provide notice to each person with an interest in the estate. This notice should indicate what the beneficiary is entitled to pursuant to the terms of the Will.

Delivery may be by personal delivery, ordinary mail, email, or other electronic means to the address provided by the person for that purpose. There is no requirement to prove receipt of a notice that has been mailed.

However, before mailing, the executor must make reasonable efforts to verify that the address is current, even when the Will-maker has long been out of touch, and if it is not, make an effort to trace the current address.