The issue of who handles settlement of debt and distribution of assets where no instruction is left by the deceased can cause tension between family members. Ordinarily, the deceased’s next of kin will be left to handle the estate as administrator in intestate, however, they may not always be willing or able to properly take on this task.
Commencing probate in intestacy
In order to commence probate, the administrator in intestacy will have to apply to court to be granted Letters of Administration. This permits the administrator to gain control of the deceased’s assets, including bank accounts.
Contesting appointment of executor in intestacy prior to grant of probate
There are three primary methods of having an alternative executor appointed prior to grant of probate: (1) citation; (2) renunciation; and (3) passing over. The first two options are non-contentious and involve consent of the current executor. The latter involves a court order compelling a replacement.
- Citation is where the current executor delegates responsibility regarding administration to third parties, including obtaining the grant of probate.
- Renunciation is where the current executor renounces the appointed role. The only formal requirement is that the renunciation is done in writing.
- Passing over if the character of the executor is questionable, their appointment can be disputed through application to the relevant District Judge or Registrar.
Contesting appointment of executor in intestacy after grant of probate
After grant of probate, an interested party can apply to court for a Section 50 order removing the executor, or, in the alternative, seek appointment of a Judicial Trustee to take offer handling of the estate. The latter option entails considerable expense.
Rules on distribution
There are statutory rules on the order that assets are distributed, a full account of which are beyond the scope of this note. In short, however, if there is a spouse or civil partner and no children, everything in the estate will go to them. If there are children, the estate over £250,000 will be split between the spouse and the children.
If a deceased had no spouse or children, distribution is made in the following order: (1) parents; (2) siblings; (3) grandparents; and (4) aunts and uncles. If there are no family members to follow distribution, the estate will vest in the Crown.
Contact our Wills and Probate Solicitors London
Our solicitors have extensive experience in handling matters relating to trusts, HMRC and tax implications, Power of Attorney and business advice. Our client base is not only domestic, but international, meaning we are well placed to advise on situations where a deceased either had assets overseas or their primary domicile was not in the UK.