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Where there is no will

Where there is no will

Dying without a will is also called dying intestate. If someone has died leaving no valid will, the estate must be dealt with in accordance with the intestacy rules provided by s46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925. These rules dictate who will inherit and who is entitled to apply for the legal right to administer the estate.

Letters of Administration

Where there is no will, an application to the court for letters of administration (the equivalent to a grant of representation where there is a will) is always required because without it, there will be no one with the legal right to deal with the estate assets.

The person appointed in the letters of administration is called an administrator.

Where there is no will, professional assistance with the administration of the estate should be sought at an early stage, in order to ensure that the intestacy rules are properly applied.

We have considerable experience of dealing with estates where there is no valid will and we can guide you through the process.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is entitled to inherit where there is no will?

    The intestacy rules provide an order for those who are entitled to inherit.  Those at the top of the list inherit with first priority, those lower down the list only inherit if those higher on the list have already died or do not exist.    

    Where the deceased was married or in a civil partnership:

    1. Spouse/ civil partner but no children– spouse/ civil partner will inherit the whole estate
    2. Spouse/ civil partner and children – Spouse/civil partner receives the fixed statutory legacy which, from July 2023, is £322,000 (if the estate has assets valued at or over this sum) and also the deceased’s personal possessions.  Any assets over an above the statutory legacy and personal possessions pass equally between the spouse/ civil partner and children.

    If the deceased was not married or in a civil partnership:

    1. Children (if more than one then equally between them)
    2. Parents
    3. Brothers and sisters (if they have already died, their share passes to their children)
    4. Half-brothers and half-sisters (or to their children if they have already died) 
    5. Grandparents
    6. Uncles and Aunts (or their children if they have already died – the cousins)
    7. Half Uncles and Aunts (or their children if they have already died – half cousins)

    If there are no living relatives the estate will pass to the crown. 

    There are some very important points to note about the intestacy rules:

    • Spouse/ civil partner does not include an unmarried partner or cohabitee.
    • Children includes biological and adopted children.  It does not include step children unless they have been adopted. 
  • Who can apply to administer the estate where there is no will?

    The Intestacy rules set out who is entitled to apply for letters of administration to administer the estate.  The order runs in the same order as the rules for inheritance.  If the person applying is lower down the order – they must explain to the court why those higher up are not applying.   As such, if there is a spouse/ civil partner, the spouse/ civil partner will apply unless they cannot do so.    

  • What does the administrator of the estate need to do?

    The administrator must administrate the estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy in the same way that an executor must administer an estate in accordance with the will.   

  • Can anything be done to change who will inherit under the rules?

    The intestacy rules cannot be ignored or dis-applied, but it is possible for a beneficiary due to inherit under the rules to vary their entitlement in order to pass assets to others instead.   We can advise you as to whether this may be appropriate and how best to re-direct assets to those who may need them the most tax efficient manner.    This is done by a deed of variation. 

  • What should I do if someone claims against the estate?

    Where an estate falls to the intestacy rules, there may be people who the rules do not include as beneficiaries who might have otherwise have hoped to inherit.  This can give rise to claims under the Inheritance Act.  If such a claim is intimated, you should take professional advice as soon as possible.  Our specialist disputed wills and estates team will be able to advise you further.

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