My sister and I are heirs-at-law of my father’s (small) estate (Canada). He died in April 2007. In his will he appointed his deceased second wife’s niece as his Trustee and Executrix. He also stipulated “...to give and transfer the rest and residue of my estate whatsoever and wheresoever situated, both real and personal, to (the said niece) for her own use absolutely or to distribute as she sees fit.”
I am noted as an heir-at-law in the notice of intent to apply for probate, but neither my sister nor I are mentioned in the will as beneficiaries (neither are my two teenage children). What is the difference between an heir-at-law and a beneficiary, and how do my rights as an heir-at-law differ from those of a beneficiary?
My understanding of this will is that the niece is executrix, trustee, as well as beneficiary of my father’s estate, but my father’s natural children and grandchildren are not entitled to any part of it. Technically, we’re not in the will so we’re not beneficiaries, correct?
I believe the standard of care expected for an executrix/trustee is that of a ‘prudent, reasonable and honest person’. The trustee also has fiduciary responsibilities and has to act always in the best interest of the beneficiaries. So, is my reading of this correct in that the niece’s main responsibility is to act in in her own best interests, disregarding heirs-at-law who by law inherit the estate of a deceased person?
As an heir-at-law I believe I am also entitled to accounting records of assets, receipts, disbursements and distribution of the estate, which is small, i.e. less than $50,000. When my father was alive, he spoke to me about giving his grandchildren money for their education; he wanted my son to have his carpentry tools and truck. There are some personal and sentimental items such as pictures, a watch my daughter gave him, and his old accordian that I would think would mean more to me and my family than to the niece from a second marriage who is only related through marriage.
Do I have the right to expect or ask for anything of his possessions or estate, or to be informed of the status of probate? If I sound confused, well, I am, as well as somewhat disconcerted. Thank you for your help.