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When a loved one dies without a Will

Published on 19 October 2022 | Modified on 23 November 2022

Written by Lana Jones

When a loved one dies without a Will

Losing a loved one can be a very difficult time for families and whilst they come to terms with their loss, they may start to think about who is going to manage their loved one’s estate. If the family member who passed away had had a Will in place, this would have named the ‘Executors’ or ‘Personal Representatives’ who are entitled to deal with all matters. Including gathering in assets and settling outstanding liabilities.

The Non-Contentious Probate Rules

Studies show that there seems to be a widespread reluctance to write a Will among the UK population. This means it is quite common for family members to die ‘intestate’. In these situations it is not as clear cut who can deal with a loved one’s estate and, indeed, who will inherit. Where there is no Will, one must turn to The Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 (NCPR) for guidance. The rules set out a ‘hierarchy’ of who can deal with the estate and who will inherit.

Put simply, the beneficiaries who are entitled to inherit from the estate are also entitled to deal with the administration. They would be appointed as ‘administrators’ rather than ‘executors’, although both roles have the same responsibilities. These responsibilities include notifying all relevant organisations, paying the funeral expenses and any other liabilities, gathering in all assets and distributing the final balance to the beneficiaries.

How does it work?

The NCPR sets out an order of priority of who may be appointed administrator and inherit from the estate. The hierarchy is as follows:

a) The surviving spouse;

b) Children of the deceased and any issue (children) of any child who died before the deceased;

c) Parents of the deceased;

d) Brothers and sisters of the deceased (and any issue of any brother or sister who died before the deceased);

e) Half brothers and sisters (and any issue of any half brother or sister who died before the deceased);

f) Grandparents;

g) Uncles and aunts (and any issue of any uncle or aunt who died before the deceased); and finally

h) Half uncles and aunts (and any issue of any half uncle or aunt who died before the deceased).

It may be simple in some cases in that a surviving spouse or surviving children are to be appointed as the administrators and inherit from the estate. However, matters can be more challenging where families are estranged and the people who fall into one of the above categories are uncertain or their location is not known. Family members may have lost contact and may not be able to locate a potential beneficiary.

How can we help?

In those types of cases, the specialist solicitors at Poole Alcock have contacts with other professionals who are able to look into a family history and ascertain whether there are any distant relatives who are entitled to inherit. Once all beneficiaries are identified, our team will make contact and ensure that the estate is distributed correctly to the right people. Failure to identify beneficiaries could lead to a claim against administrators of the estate and so it is important that you seek expert help where appropriate.

If you have lost a family member and you believe they do not have a Will in place, please do get in touch with one of our friendly team on XXXXXXXXXXXXX who will be happy to talk you through the process and provide any assistance you may need.

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