Who acts as executor if there is no will?


26 July 2017

By Lisa Carter

Around two-thirds of British adults do not have a Will and as many as a third of us die without leaving one. This is known as dying “intestate” and can leave the family, friends and other potential beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate in a very difficult position.

If someone leaves a Will when they pass away, this will specify an executor, whose job it is to sort out what happens to the deceased’s estate. However, if someone you know has died without leaving a Will, nobody is automatically entitled to handle their estate. Instead, someone wanting this responsibility will need to apply for a “grant of representation” to be legally named as the administrator of the estate.

In this article, we will explain who can be an estate administrator, how to apply for a grant of representation and who is likely to inherit when there is no Will.

Who can be an estate administrator?

The administrator will normally need to be a relative of the deceased. If the deceased has a living husband, wife or civil partner, the role usually falls to them, as long as they are willing. Even if the spouse or civil partner was separated from the deceased, they can still apply, as long as they were still legally married or in a civil partnership.

If there are several relatives who wish to act as administrator and they cannot agree amongst themselves who it should be, priority will go to the closest adult relative of the deceased, starting with their spouse or civil partner (if they have one).

Applying for a grant of representation

There are 4 steps to applying for a grant of representation. You can do this yourself or get a solicitor to do it for you.

The 4 steps are:

  1. Fill in a probate application form.
  2. Complete an Inheritance Tax form.
  3. Submit your application to your local probate registry. As well as the probate application and Inheritance Tax form you will need to include an official copy of the death certificate and an application fee.
  4. Swear an oath in front of a commissioner for oaths (normally a solicitor) or at a local probate office.

Who inherits when there is no will?

When you pass away without leaving a Will, the law decides who inherits your estate and your wishes will likely not be taken into consideration.

Who inherits will usually depend on what part of the UK you are living in, whether you have a living husband, wife or civil partner and if you have any children (biological or adopted, but not stepchildren).

If you do not have a spouse, civil partner or children, other close relatives may inherit. If there are no sufficiently close relatives, the whole estate will normally go to the Crown.

Get professional assistance from an experience probate adviser

Even where an estate may seem relatively simple to administer, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced practitioner to make sure all the appropriate considerations have been taken care of. This protects you legally and allows you to be confident that there will be no lingering issues to deal with further down the line. That way, you can discharge your duties and move on with certainty.

Gepp & Sons is one of the region’s top law firms and our probate team has been helping people deal with a wide range of issues around Wills, probate and estate administration for many years. We can talk you through all of your rights and responsibilities in a clear, friendly way and help you to make sure all of your legal obligations are taken care of correctly, giving you complete peace of mind.

Call us today on 01245 228122 to speak to one of our probate specialists about becoming an administrator or any other issues to do with probate and estate administration.