If someone dies without a Will in place, their estate will be distributed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy. The estate administration can be more complicated than usual and it is important to avoid mistakes and liability for loss.
With many people failing to make a Will, it is not unusual for relatives to have to deal with an intestate estate. The Rules of Intestacy (the Rules) set out a strict order in which relatives will inherit and also prescribes who may take on the role of personal representative or administrator. This is the person who will deal with the winding-up of the estate.
At Tanners Solicitors we frequently act for clients whose relative has died without making a Will. We apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration giving authority to the authorised personal representative to administer the deceased’s estate and distribute it in accordance with the Rules.
If you are an estate administrator, our experienced probate team can wind up the estate efficiently on your behalf, advising you on any complex issues such as Inheritance Tax and any trusts which may arise, and ensure that the administration is dealt with as quickly as possible and without difficulty.
We are friendly and sympathetic and will ensure that you are supported throughout and that we are available to speak to you to answer any questions that you have.
For more information on our services, see our Wills, Trusts and Probate page.
How we help with intestacy and the winding up of an estate where there is no Will
Winding up an estate is often time-consuming and it can also be complex. Our team can help with all of the following stages of the process:
- Obtaining date of death valuations of the estate’s assets
- Calculating and arranging payment of Inheritance Tax
- Applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration
- Collecting in the estate’s assets (this may include clearing and selling any home that the deceased owned)
- Identifying and paying all debts and liabilities
- Preparing detailed estate accounts
- Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries entitled to receive it under the intestacy rules
It is important to ensure all debts are included and that all assets and entitled beneficiaries are identified. This can involve placing advertisements in the Gazette and local press and carrying out lost asset searches. If mistakes are made during the administration process which result in a loss to the estate, the administrator can be held personally liable, even if the errors were genuine.
Our experienced intestacy lawyers can assist with any of the individual steps in administering an intestate estate. If you prefer, we can take on the whole administration of an intestate estate on your behalf, dealing with all of the winding up to include locating beneficiaries, identifying debts, calculating Inheritance Tax and drawing up estate accounts.
What is intestacy?
Intestacy arises when someone dies without leaving a valid Will. It means the estate will be administered and distributed according to the rules of intestacy set out by the government without regard to what the deceased may have intended.
What are the rules of intestacy?
The rules of intestacy set out who is entitled to inherit the estate of someone who has died intestate.
Where the deceased was married or in a civil partnership and also had children, their spouse or civil partner will inherit the first £322,000 of the net estate plus all of the deceased’s personal possessions or chattels.
They will also receive half of the remainder of the estate. The children will share the other half equally between them.
If there is a spouse or civil partner but no children, the spouse or civil partner inherits everything.
If there is no spouse or civil partner but the deceased did leave children, they will share the estate equally between them.
Where the deceased did not leave a spouse, civil partner, children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, their whole estate will be inherited by other relatives, in the following order of priority:
- Siblings or their children
- Half siblings or their children
- Uncles or aunts or their children
- Half uncles or aunts or their children
What is partial intestacy?
Partial intestacy occurs when the deceased has left a Will but it does not deal with the whole estate. This could arise if the deceased left a share of the estate to someone who had predeceased and where there is no alternative provision made in the Will for that share.
The rest of the estate can still be administered in accordance with the Will. The gift that has failed will be distributed in line with the rules of intestacy.
Who can apply to be an estate administrator in intestacy?
Those who are entitled to inherit under the intestacy rules can apply to be the estate administrator, in the same order of priority as for inheritance.
If the person entitled to take on the role is unable or unwilling to deal with this, then the right can be passed on to the next person in priority order.
It is vital that someone who does not wish to deal with an estate takes no action in the administration. If they carry out any task, however small, they may have to continue with the administration as they will be held to have “intermeddled” in the estate and cannot subsequently withdraw.
Can inheritance under intestacy rules be challenged?
You cannot challenge the rules of intestacy in the same way that a Will can be challenged.
However, if you were reliant on the deceased for financial support, for example, if you are their unmarried partner, you may be able to bring a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act.
There are strict time limits for bringing this type of claim, so it is essential that you seek legal advice without delay.
How long does intestacy estate administration take?
The time taken to wind up an intestate estate will vary depending on the estate’s complexity and how easy it is to identify the assets, liabilities and beneficiaries. If there is a property to be cleared and sold, this can take several months.
As a rough estimate, an average estate may take around nine to twelve months to finalise, although it could take longer.
Can next of kin access the deceased’s bank account if they died intestate?
A bank may allow an estate administrator to access the deceased’s bank account in order to pay outstanding bills. The bank will require proof of identity, a copy of the death certificate and evidence of the applicant’s relationship with the deceased.
Who inherits if there are no beneficiaries under intestacy rules?
If the deceased did not have any surviving relatives entitled to inherit under the rules of intestacy, their estate will pass to the Crown. This is known as bona vacantia. The Treasury Solicitor will deal with the winding up of the estate. The Crown can make grants from the estate if it chooses.
If you believe you have a claim on an estate that has passed to the Crown, you should seek legal advice without delay so that you can apply for a grant.