When an individual dies without leaving a will, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. In such a case, the court appoints a person to deal with the affairs and estate of the deceased, as well as finding out who should inherit the estate (funds, property and personal possessions).
Hiring a professional solicitor
It may be difficult to deal with the affairs of the deceased, especially if they left no will. It can also be a time consuming process – taking months or even years to go through various and possibly very complicated cases. This is why it is advisable to seek the services of a professional solicitor as soon as possible. Any important documents regarding property (both tangible and intangible), belongings and bank accounts of the deceased can be shared with the solicitor. Small valuables including jewellery and family heirlooms can be stored away for safekeeping.
Who can deal with the deceased person’s affairs?
Close relatives, spouses and family members have the right to be involved with the deceased’s financial estate.
Grant of Letters of Administration
In order to administer someone’s estate, you are normally required to apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ at the Probate registry. Your solicitor can help you with the application or you can make a personal application if you wish.
The grant provides proof to banks, building societies and other financial institutions, that you have the authority to access and distribute funds on behalf of the deceased. The overall process is often referred to as ‘obtaining probate’, though technically this term applies where there was a will. Note that if Inheritance Tax is due on the estate some or all of this must be paid before a grant will be issued.
When is a grant not needed?
You may not require a Grant of Letters of Administration, if the estate is below £5000, and doesn’t contain any land, property or shares. A grant is also not needed when the property is jointly owned, in which case it automatically passes to the surviving joint owner.
Who inherits the estate of the deceased?
When no will is left by the deceased person, there are certain rules which apply when deciding who inherits the estate. The personal circumstances of the deceased dictate the outcome.
If they were married prior to death, the first person who can claim entitlement to the estate is their spouse or civil partner. However, the spouse or civil partner may not inherit to all of it. The amount depends on how much is in the estate, and on which blood relatives survive.
Partners who weren’t married or in civil partnership
If you weren’t married or registered civil partners with the deceased, you are not automatically entitled to any of the estate, unless they left a will. If they haven’t provided for you in some other way, your only option is to make a claim using certain legislation. You can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Making a financial provision claim
If you feel you’ve not received reasonable financial provision – you can make a claim. However, you must have a particular type of relationship with the deceased – such as child, spouse, civil partner or dependant.
There are certain conditions to meet if you were living with the deceased as a partner but weren’t married. You need to show that you were ‘maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased’. (The same applies if you were in a civil partnership.) This can be difficult to prove if you both contributed to your life together.
You need to make a claim within six months of the date of the grant of letters of administration.
This is quite a complicated area and a claim may not succeed. It’s advisable to ask a solicitor’s advice.