Estate trustees frequently ask adults entitled to receive an inheritance to sign a beneficiary release form. The adult receiving the inheritance is known as the “beneficiary.” Signing the release indicates the beneficiary agrees the inheritance they’re receiving is correct and prevents them from suing the trustee.
When to sign a release
Under certain circumstances, beneficiaries have the right to review the estate's accounts. By signing the beneficiary release form, they confirm that the accounting appears to be accurate.
The estate accounts should consist of:
- An account of what the estate originally contained.
- An account of all money received.
- An account of all money remaining on hand.
However, some beneficiaries may not have the right to review the estate's accounts. In such cases, signing a release is a chance for them to acknowledge that they were not entitled to review the accounts.
Regardless of the situation, signing a release is a way to confirm that the estate was managed correctly and that the beneficiary's entitlements were properly handled.
Who can sign a release
Some beneficiaries don’t usually sign a release. For example, the trustee could also be a beneficiary and would not need to release themselves. Minor children also can’t sign beneficiary release forms.
What if the beneficiary refuses to sign a beneficiary release
Beneficiaries have the right to refuse to sign a release. The trustee cannot force the beneficiary to sign a release form as a condition of receiving their inheritance.
In those circumstances the trustee has two options:
- Distribute without a release: The trustee can distribute the estate and risk legal action.
- Pass accounts: The trustee can submit the estate’s accounts to the court to review and approve.
If the trustee chooses to pass accounts, the trustee would need to engage an estate lawyer to prepare the accounts in the format the court expects. The estate is responsible for paying the lawyer's fee, and it should not be billed to the beneficiary.
How to sign a beneficiary release
Electronic signatures are legally binding on beneficiary release forms. Printing and scanning the release is a convenient and low cost option for most estates.
Here’s a step by step process:
- The trustee emails the release to the beneficiary.
- The beneficiary prints the release.
- The beneficiary signs the release in the presence of an adult witness such as a spouse or a friend.
- The witness also signs the release.
- The beneficiary scans the release.
- The beneficiary emails the completed document to the trustee.
How to write a beneficiary release form
LegalDeeds can write beneficiary release forms online. The easy website only costs $5 per form and the estate can reimburse the trustee for the cost of the forms.