Steps to get probate

How to get probate without a will following the rules of intestacy

To get probate without a will, you need to apply for a grant of letters of administration. This allows the next of kin to access the estate and distribute assets in line with the rules of intestacy – which we’ll explain in more detail here.

Contents
  1. Intestate meaning
  2. What are the intestacy rules?
  3. Who inherits when someone dies without a will?
  4. Probate without a will: who should apply?
  5. What is a grant of letters of administration?
  6. How long does probate take without a will?
  7. How to get probate without a will

Intestate meaning

Intestate is a word used to describe someone who died without a will.

When someone writes a will, they have the opportunity to say how much they want people to inherit from their estate. Many people choose to leave everything to their spouse and children, but extended family, friends and charities are also popular choices.

When someone dies intestate, there are no legally-binding wishes regarding what should happen to their estate. In these cases, the rules of intestacy come into play.

What are the intestacy rules?

The rules of intestacy are a set of laws that define what should happen to someone’s estate when they die intestate. They usually work reasonably well for traditional families whose circumstances are fairly straightforward, but things can be more difficult for unmarried partners and step-children.

Who inherits when someone dies without a will?

When someone dies without a will, their next of kin inherits the estate. Under the rules of intestacy, the spouse or civil partner of the person who died always stands to inherit the most, but the exact amount depends on whether they have children or grandchildren.

To help you apply the rules of intestacy to your situation, we’ve provided examples for some of the most common scenarios below. If you’d prefer to speak to a probate specialist over the phone, please give us a call on 020 3695 1713.

Married or in a civil partnership and has children

The surviving spouse or civil partner inherits everything up to the value of £270,000. If the estate’s value is over £270,000, the partner also inherits half of everything that remains. The rest is then shared equally between their children.

For example: Peter was married to Jane and had four children. When he died without a will, his estate was worth £500,000. Susan inherited all of his personal possessions and the first £270,000 of the estate, which left £230,000. Susan also inherited 50% of this, giving her a total of £385,000. The remaining £115,000 was then shared equally between their four children, who received £28,750 each.

Note: If one or more of the children has already died, grandchildren or great-grandchildren can inherit their parent’s share.

Unmarried and has children or grandchildren

The estate is shared equally between the children, not including any step-children. If any of the children has already died, grandchildren or great-grandchildren can inherit their parent’s share.

For example: Mandy was unmarried and had two children, Daniel and John. When she died without a will, her estate was worth £600,000. Daniel inherited £300,000 but, because John had already passed away, his £300,000 share was split equally between his three children.

Note: If John didn’t have children or grandchildren of his own, his share would also have been inherited by Daniel.

Unmarried and has no children

If someone dies intestate and has no children, their close relatives inherit the estate in the following order of priority:

  • Parents
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Half brothers and half sisters
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Children of aunts and uncles (cousins)

Probate without a will: who should apply?

When someone dies intestate, the person who stands to inherit the most under the rules of intestacy is usually responsible for applying for probate.

In cases where this responsibility is shared equally – between the children of the person who died, for example – you can either apply together or decide between yourselves which one of you should apply.

When applying for probate without a will, the document you need to apply for is called a grant of letters of administration.

What is a grant of letters of administration?

A grant of letters of administration is an official court document that proves you have the right to act as the administrator of someone’s estate. Once the document has been issued, you’ll be able to close bank accounts, sell property and distribute assets following the rules of intestacy.

You may also hear this document referred to as a grant of representation, which is the collective term for both a grant of letters of administration and a grant of probate.

How long does probate take without a will?

It takes around 30 days to apply for probate and get a grant of letters of administration delivered. For complex cases, this can take slightly longer.

Once the application has been approved by the probate registry, it will be sent out in the post. The next of kin will then be able to close accounts, sell property and distribute assets following the rules of intestacy.

This part of the process is known as ‘estate admin’. It can take anywhere between 3-12 months depending on the number of accounts and properties that need to be dealt with.

How to get probate without a will

If you are the next of kin of someone who died without a will, you can apply for probate by calling Farewill on 020 3695 1713. Here’s how it works:

  • Our friendly probate specialists will chat through your situation to help you understand what probate is, whether you need it and how much it’s going to cost.
  • We’ll arrange a follow-up call to find out more details about the estate – this usually takes around 30 minutes.
  • The probate and tax forms are prepared and sent to you to be signed, then they’re submitted to the probate registry.
  • Once everything has been approved by the government, your grant of letters of administration will be sent to you in the post.

You’ll then need to take care of the estate admin, which often includes paying off debts, selling property, closing accounts and distributing assets to beneficiaries following the rules of intestacy.

If the estate is fairly simple, you may be happy to deal with this yourself. However, if you’re worried about making mistakes or simply want to get things sorted as quickly as possible, let us know when you call and we’ll happily provide you with a quote for estate admin.

Article reviewed

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