When a loved one or family member dies without leaving a Will it can be difficult to know where to start in sorting out their estate and financial affairs. The first question, when there is no Will, is who can act as the executor to sort out the estate? Probate solicitors can talk you through the process.
Contact our team today to find out how we can help you.
Who sorts out an estate if there is no Will?
If someone dies without leaving a Will, the person responsible for dealing with their estate is called an administrator. Their role is very similar to that of an executor appointed in a Will to sort out a deceased’s financial affairs.
The appointment of an administrator is determined by law. That’s why it is preferable to sign a Will so you can choose the most appropriate person to deal with your estate, such as trusted friends, family or your own solicitor.
Who can be appointed as an administrator?
The rules of intestacy determine who should be appointed as an administrator. The rules list the relatives in order of priority who will be appointed to act as administrators and who will inherit the estate.
This order of priority under the intestacy rules over who can apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of letters of administration and be appointed as an administrator are:
- A surviving husband, wife, or civil partner
- Children of the deceased
- Brothers or sisters
If the deceased died without a spouse or children, and their parents have predeceased them, the intestacy rules say siblings will be appointed as administrators. If there are no brothers or sisters, the intestacy rules go on to detail the more distant relatives who can apply to the Probate Registry.
An administrator can choose to appoint a probate solicitor to sort out the administration of the estate for them. The probate solicitor fees are paid by the estate.
Obtaining a grant of administration
The first step in the administration of an estate where there is no Will is to obtain a grant of administration from the Probate Registry. The grant of letters of administration gives the relative the authority to administer the estate. The estate administration involves:
- Collecting the assets of the estate
- Paying any debts, liabilities, and inheritance tax
- Distributing the estate in accordance with the intestacy rules
Intestacy rule complexities
The estate of a person who died without making a Will may not be straightforward. For example, if:
- The deceased’s estate is liable to pay inheritance tax.
- The deceased owned a family business or a buy-to-let property portfolio.
- There is the potential for family disputes because the deceased had children from different relationships or stepchildren or a former spouse to whom they were paying spousal maintenance to.
- A person indicates that they intend to make a claim against the estate because the intestacy rules do not make reasonable financial provisions for them. When a person dies without leaving a Will, there is a greater chance of a claim being made against an estate because the intestacy rules do not provide for an unmarried partner, so a cohabitee has no automatic right to a share of the estate
A probate solicitor can help an administrator work out the complexities of administering and distributing the estate.