What are beneficiaries of a will

30 November 2023

Guide Wills

Writing a will doesn’t need to be hard. But it’s normal to find the words and language tricky, especially if you don’t have much experience with legal documents. One important word you’ll come across when writing your will is beneficiary. A beneficiary of a will is a person that you name in your will, as someone who you would want to  receive items or assets from your estate after you die. The estate is made up of what a will-maker owns.

Learning more about beneficiaries will help you make better decisions. If you have questions about naming your beneficiaries, or you’ve been made a beneficiary by someone else in their will, this article will help you understand what that means.

What rights does a beneficiary of a will have?

A beneficiary can be given a specific gift or can also be left the residuary estate. The residuary estate is what is left of a deceased person’s property and possessions once their funeral, debts and other liabilities have been paid and specific gifts have been given. Residuary beneficiaries are usually entitled to what’s left of a will-makers estate.


Being a beneficiary comes with certain rights. To make sure that nothing is being mishandled, a beneficiary has a right to inspect certain information about the accounts of the estate upon request. The executor of a will should keep full and accurate records of what they have done with that estate. The executor is the person who carries out the wishes stated in a will.

If you want to learn more about common terms used in wills, check out our Wills and Powers of Attorney Dictionary.

What can beneficiaries of a will do if there is a dispute?

A beneficiary can raise a dispute against the executor of the will if they think the executor isn’t doing their job properly.

The executor is responsible for:

  • Disposing of the body;
  • Obtaining probate of the will if there is one;
  • Collecting and securing the assets of the estate;
  • Handling the deceased’s debts;
  • Reporting and distributing the estate assets.

You can find a more detailed list in our Executor Checklist

If an executor isn’t doing their job properly, a beneficiary can make an application in court and depending on what the issue is, may ask for reports on how an executor did their job. If a beneficiary has a strong enough case, they can even make an application to have the executor removed.

Can a beneficiary of a will be the executor of a will?

An executor can also be a beneficiary of the same will. This is common as many Australians choose to name friends or family as the executor of their will. The responsibilities stay the same, but they often come with some added pressure. Beneficiaries that are also executors will need to work extra hard to make sure that everything they do is right and well documented.

Get in touch with State Trustees

When writing a will, it’s important to understand what a beneficiary is. This will help you make sure your will is doing what you want it to. It can also help you understand what to do if you’re not being treated fairly by the executor of someone else’s will.


Now that you know what a beneficiary is, you can use our Online Will to produce a simple will in as little as 30 minutes. If you want help with this, you can book a remote video or in-person Will Appointment.


For any other questions, reach out to us by calling 1300 138 672 or fill out a contact form today.

Useful resources


Will writing guide

Read more

Executor checklist

Read more

8 reasons to update your will

Read more

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Original artwork ‘Four Sisters Coming Together’ by Melissa Bell 2023