Who is responsible for administering an estate?
When someone dies, their Will names an executor who will be responsible for winding up their estate. We look at who administers an estate if the deceased did not make a Will. Also we see who can take on the role of estate administration.
Normally after a death, the deceased’s personal representative, either their executor or administrator, applies to the Probate Registry for a grant. A grant is the document that will give them the legal authority to finalise the deceased’s affairs.
Where the deceased left a Will, then their executor named in the Will can apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate.
When the deceased did not leave a Will, then their estate will pass under the Rules of Intestacy to close family members in order of priority. Usually one of these individuals will assume the role of administrator. They assume responsibility for applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
What are the Rules of Intestacy?
The Rules of Intestacy apply when there is no valid Will. They decide who will inherit the deceased’s estate.
Priority is given to the deceased’s spouse and civil partner, if they had one. Rules of Intestacy determine who will inherit the first £270,000 of the deceased’s estate plus all of their personal possessions.
If the deceased also had children, they will share equally in half of the remainder of the estate. The other half will go to the spouse or civil partner, meaning they could receive substantially more than the children. In the case of no children, the spouse or civil partner will inherit everything.
Should the deceased leave no spouse or civil partner, the children will share the whole estate equally between them.
Where there is no spouse, civil partner or children, the next in line of entitlement are grandchildren, followed by great grandchildren.
No direct descendants means that parents, siblings, nieces and nephews are next in order of priority. Distant relatives follow these.
Those who cannot inherit under the Rules of Intestacy include unmarried partners, cohabiting partners and stepchildren.
When do you need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration?
When there is no Will, an invalid Will or no executor is named, an administrator needs to be appointed.
The administrator will usually be the person entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. This means that the deceased’s spouse or civil partner will generally have priority, followed by the deceased’s children.
There may be difficulties if the children cannot agree which of them will take on the role. However it is possible to have more than one administrator.
What happens if the deceased’s spouse does not want to be an administrator
There is no obligation to take on the role of administrator. The task of winding up an estate can be time-consuming and complicated. Necessary tasks include valuing the estate, calculating and paying Inheritance Tax and estate accounts are prepared at the end of the administration.
If a spouse or civil partner (or other person entitled to deal with the administration) does not want to take on the job, the next person in order of priority can do so. It is very important that the person who will not be administering the estate takes no action at all. If they are seen to take any action that could be construed as administering the estate, they will not be able to step aside.
An alternative is to take on the role but to ask a probate solicitor to deal with the administration on their behalf. The solicitor can carry out all of the work and the administrator will just need to sign some of the documents.
Administering an estate without a Will
Once the administrator has been chosen, they will need to value the estate. They must calculate and pay any Inheritance Tax that may be due. They can then complete the application form to request a Grant of Letters of Administration, which is sent to the Probate Registry. A copy of the death certificate and payment of the application fee must also be sent.
The Probate Registry will usually take two to three months to deal with the application. Following this a Grant of Letters of Administration will be sent to the administrator. This gives them the legal authority to wind up the estate. This includes selling the deceased’s property, paying their bills and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy.
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