Wills and Probate

What happens when there's no will: Understanding estate Administration

What happens when there is no Will banner by Victoria Harcourt

Losing a loved one is a difficult experience, and navigating the legal aspects that follow can add additional stress. 

One crucial aspect that often comes into play is the distribution of the deceased’s estate.

Ideally, this process is outlined in a legal document known as a will.

A will typically designates an executor, the person responsible for managing and finalising the deceased’s affairs.

However, when no will exists, matters can become more complex.

Understanding the basics

In the absence of a will, the estate is distributed based on the Rules of Intestacy, which establish a hierarchy of inheritance. 

The spouse or civil partner usually takes priority, followed by children, grandchildren, and other close relatives.

Notably, unmarried or cohabiting partners and stepchildren are not included in the hierarchy.

Role of an administrator

When no will exists, an administrator is appointed to handle the estate.

Usually, the administrator is or is one of the individuals entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy, often the spouse or civil partner, followed by the children.

Sometimes, conflicts arise among the children, but it is possible to have more than one administrator.

Declining the administrator role 

Administering an estate can be a demanding and intricate task, often requiring legal and financial expertise.

If the appointed individual declines the responsibility, the next in line can step in.

Alternatively, the chosen individual can opt to work with a probate solicitor, who can handle the complexities while the administrator oversees the process.

Process of estate administration

Once an administrator is selected, the estate must be assessed and any Inheritance Tax calculated and settled. 

The next step involves submitting an application for a Grant of Letters of Administration to the Probate Registry, along with the required documents and fees.

Typically, it takes a couple of months for the Probate Registry to process the application. 

Upon approval, the administrator receives the legal authorisation to manage the estate, which includes tasks such as property sales, bill payments, and distribution to the rightful beneficiaries.

Seeking legal advice

Dealing with the intricacies of estate administration can be daunting.

If you find yourself in this position, seeking guidance from expert probate lawyers can be beneficial.

They can provide the necessary support and expertise to navigate the process smoothly.

Our Wills, Trusts and Probate Team can help. Call 01772 799 600.

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