Intestate - What happens when someone dies without leaving a will?

When a person dies without leaving a valid will they are said to have died intestate. Dealing with their estate can be very complicated.

When someone dies intestate

If this happens to one of your relatives, it is best to seek legal advice as soon as possible, because the law sets out who should then inherit their estate (their money, property and possessions).

Usually, a close relative like a spouse, parent or child has the right to deal with the estate of the person who has died. They are referred to as an ‘administrator’ - the person who deals with the estate if there’s no will.

You can usually apply for a grant of representation to be the administrator of the estate if you’re the person’s next of kin, for example their husband, wife, civil partner or child.

What if the person wasn’t married, or was separated / divorced?

You can apply for a grant of representation if you had separated from the person but you were still married or in a civil partnership when they died.

You cannot apply for a grant of representation if you’re the partner of the person but you were not their husband, wife or civil partner when they died.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership, you are also not automatically entitled to any of your partner’s estate. The law decides who inherits the estate if there’s no will.

What are the steps taken when someone dies intestate?

Private Client Associate, Heather Varley is a specialist in drafting wills for our clients and also advises people who find themselves dealing with a situation where someone has died intestate.

She explains, “To be able to administer someone’s estate you need to apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ from the Probate Registry - we will help with this. Once this has been approved you then become the administrator and the grant is proof of your authority to access bank or building society accounts and other organisations that were held in the name of the deceased. If the estate is liable for Inheritance Tax some or all of this must be paid before a grant will be issued.”

Heather goes on to say “Rules regarding inheritance are complex. We will guide you through the steps needed, but generally the first person entitled to inherit from the estate is a husband, wife or civil partner, although they are not guaranteed to receive everything.”

Our Wills & Tax Team are happy to discuss any issues that this raises for you. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Alia or a member of the team, will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.

I am the partner and would have inherited if they had had a will?

If you feel that you have not received reasonable financial provision from the estate, it is possible to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

To make a claim, you must prove that you have been wholly or partly maintained by the person that has died immediately before their death. Your claim must also be made within six months of the date of the grant of letters of administration.

Contentious probate

This is an extremely complicated process known as Contentious Probate. A specialist solicitor’s advice should be sought over disputed wills.

Frettens are one of very few firms in Dorset and Hampshire to have a specialist and highly experienced solicitors dealing with contested and disputed wills. Michelle Hayter is a Member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) which demonstrates her expertise in disputes over wills and inheritances.

Free initial appointment

If you are affected by any of the aspects of this article, please contact Heather or Michelle who will be happy to help with you questions. Both lawyers offer a free initial appointment – call us to arrange a suitable time to discuss your situation with either of them.

Our Wills & Tax Team are happy to discuss any issues that this raises for you. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Heather or a member of the team, will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.