A beneficiary refuses to approve estate accounts. What can I do?

I act in the administration of an estate. The residuary beneficiary is refusing to approve the estate accounts. What should I do?

Unless the personal representative(s) and residuary beneficiary are the same, it is good practice to obtain written approval of the accounts and a release from liability from the residuary beneficiary.

Even when they are the same, a note of the beneficiary’s approval of the accounts is advisable. This could take the form of a simple statement on the accounts indicating their approval.

There is no statutory requirement to do this.

You should engage with the residuary beneficiary to establish why they are refusing to approve the estate accounts and seek to resolve the matter.

If this is not possible and you have real concerns about a potential dispute or claim against the executor or the estate, you have three options:

  1. distribute the estate notwithstanding the beneficiary's refusal to approve the estate accounts
  2. make a payment into court of the beneficiary’s share under section 63 of the Trustee Act 1925. However, note that if the court is of the view that your application was not reasonable, the beneficiary may be able to recoup costs
  3. seek directions from the court under rule 64.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules to determine any question arising in the administration of an estate

Any application to court should be used as a last resort only.

For more information, see the Probate Practitioner’s Handbook (9th edition), which is available to purchase from our online bookshop.


While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

Have you got a practice question?

Call the Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675 or email practiceadvice@lawsociety.org.uk.

The Practice Advice Service is staffed Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

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