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Probate Without a Will - Your Comprehensive Guide

Our People - Andrew Guile
8 January, 2024

Probate without a will, also known as intestacy, presents a unique set of challenges in the UK’s legal landscape. When an individual passes away without a will, the distribution of their estate is governed by specific rules, and the process involves obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of probate without a will through commonly asked questions:

Can you get probate without a will?

Yes, a grant probate can be obtained even if there isn’t a will. The process involves different legal procedures based on whether there’s a will or not. When there’s a will, the executor of the will applies for a Grant of Probate, whereas without a will, an administrator applies for Letters of Administration.

Do you have to apply for probate if there is no will?

Yes, you need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration to legally administer the estate when there is no will. This legal process is essential to gain the legal authority to distribute assets and settle debts.

How does probate work when there is no will?

Probate without a will involves applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration to appoint an administrator who will distribute the estate according to the rules of intestacy. The administrator will follow a predetermined hierarchy for distributing assets among surviving relatives, such as a spouse, children, and other relatives.

Who deals with probate if there is no will?

In the absence of a will, an administrator is appointed by the Probate Registry to manage the estate and distribute assets in accordance with the intestacy rules. The administrator is typically a close relative, such as a spouse or child who is entitled to inherit all or part of the estate under the intestacy rules.

Who can apply to be a personal representative if there is no will?

Family members or beneficiaries may apply to become the administrator or personal representative if there’s no will. The hierarchy of eligibility follows specific rules outlined in the intestacy laws, prioritising close relatives.

What is the difference between Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration?

The Grant of Probate is obtained when there is a valid will, allowing the executor named in the will to administer the estate. This legal document verifies the executor’s authority to distribute assets as per the deceased’s wishes. Letters of Administration are granted when there’s no valid will, appointing an administrator to manage the estate according to intestacy laws, determining how assets are distributed among heirs.

Do I need a Letter of Administration or a Grant of Probate?

The need for either document depends on whether there is a will or not. A Grant of Probate is required when there is a will, confirming the executor’s authority. However, in the absence of a will, Letters of Administration are necessary to appoint an administrator who will oversee the estate distribution.

Can I sell a house with Letters of Administration?

Yes, the administrator appointed through Letters of Administration can sell the deceased’s property after Letters of Administration have been granted by the Probate Registry. The proceeds of sale are distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules.

Do you need a solicitor if there is no will?

While it’s not mandatory, seeking legal advice can be beneficial, especially in complex cases of intestacy, to navigate the legal procedures effectively. A probate solicitor can provide guidance on the application process and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

How long does probate take if there is no will?

The duration of probate without a will can vary based on the complexity of the estate, potential disputes, and other factors. It typically takes 6 – 12 months to complete. Complex estates or disputes among beneficiaries may prolong the process.

How long does it take to apply for Letters of Administration and to complete Probate?

The process of applying for Letters of Administration and completing the probate process typically takes six months to a year, though this timeline can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the estate, any potential disputes or legal challenges, the efficiency in gathering necessary documentation, and the court’s processing times.

While straightforward cases may progress more swiftly, intricate estates, disagreements among beneficiaries, or difficulties in obtaining essential information could extend the duration considerably. Prompt action in gathering required documents and addressing any disputes can expedite the process, but complexities inherent in the estate or legal procedures can elongate the timeline.

How much does a Letter of Administration cost?

The cost of obtaining Letters of Administration can vary depending on various factors, including the value and complexity of the estate and whether you’re doing the work yourself or using a solicitor. The application to the Probate Registry for the Letters of Administration costs £273 (+ £1.50 per extra copy of the grant that you want/need). Legal fees can vary a great deal and how much probate costs will depend on the size and complexity of the estate.

When probate without a will is needed, an application must be made to the court before the legal administration of the estate can begin. The person responsible for administering the estate is called the administrator, and they need to apply for a document called a grant of Letters of Administration.

It’s worth noting that making a will avoids the rules of intestacy. If you would like any help or advice dealing with probate with or without a will, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Wills and Probate Team or get in touch on 020 8492 2290.

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