When there is No Will, Who is the Personal Representative?

22 March 2017

By Probate Solicitor Rachel Curtis

Personal Representatives is the collective name for people entitled to administer a deceased person’s Estate in England or Wales. If someone dies having left a Will then usually they’ll have appointed an Executor to deal with their Estate. An Executor may need to apply for a Grant of Probate. This is an official document issued by the Probate Registry which gives the Executor authority to administer the deceased person’s Estate as a Personal Representative.

So what happens when there is no Will and no Executor has been appointed?

When someone dies without a Will they are said to have died ‘intestate’ and there is no-one with immediate authority to act as a Personal Representative to administer their Estate. Instead, an application must be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This document gives the person named the authority to administer the deceased person’s Estate. This person is known as an Administrator.

Who Can Apply to be an Administrator?

English law provides a set of rules that determine who will administer an Estate and who will benefit from it. The rules are called the Intestacy Rules and are broadly designed to benefit the deceased person’s family.

The Intestacy Rules set out an order of priority of those relatives who are entitled to benefit from the Estate. Essentially these relatives are entitled to apply to be an Administrator and obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration, which would then enable them to deal with the administration. The order of priority is:

  1. Surviving spouse or civil partner
  2. Sons or daughters
  3. Parents
  4. Brothers and sisters
  5. More distant relatives

So, for example, if the deceased died leaving behind a spouse, then that spouse would be entitled to apply to be an Administrator in priority to any other family members. What the surviving spouse would inherit depends on what other relatives are still alive and the size of the deceased person’s Estate.

If the deceased is not survived by a spouse or civil partner then any surviving children can apply to be an Administrator. If no children survive, you must work through the priority list, identifying surviving relatives who would be entitled to apply.

Once the Grant of Letters of Administration has been issued, the Administrator must follow the same procedure as if there had been a Will. This includes collecting in assets, paying tax or other liabilities and distributing the Estate.

However, the main difference will be that the Estate is distributed in accordance with the order of priority set out in the Intestacy Rules, rather than the terms of a Will. This means the deceased’s nearest blood relatives may inherit, even if the deceased did not want them to. A surviving partner who was not married or in a civil partnership with the deceased person does not feature in the list of people to benefit under the Intestacy Rules, so has no automatic right to inherit.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting the Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excluding VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.

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