What happens if a loved one passes away without a Will?

If this has happened to you, here is some guidance on how to manage the process.

It is an extremely difficult, stressful, and overwhelming time when someone you love passes away. The loss is a lot to deal with, and when you have all of the financial affairs to wade through too, it can be very hard to handle.

If your loved one dies suddenly without leaving a Will, or if they never thought it was necessary, then their estate will go into probate. This means that a court, using intestacy laws, will decide who is entitled to your loved one’s inheritance.

What is Probate and how does it work?

Probate is the term for a legal process in which a Will is reviewed, to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person’s Will, or the estate left by the deceased, where there is no Will.

To apply for probate through the court, you will need an administrator to conduct the administering of the estate. The people who can apply to do this are:

The next of kin, spouse, or the civil partner of the deceased.

Then, in this order, the following relations of the deceased can apply to be the administrator of the estate:

  • The child
  • The grandchild
  • The parent
  • The sibling
  • The nephew or niece
  • Another relative

Applying to be an administrator is the same as applying for probate.

If a loved one dies without a Will, how long does probate take?

The process of probate can be a long and drawn-out one, depending on how complicated your loved one’s estate is. You may have family relationships that are complicated, and if your loved one has property in the UK and abroad for example, then the process could take years. The probate process as a minimum will take months and as a maximum, years.

Once you have probate, the time it will take to complete depends on the estate’s complexity. For example, an estate with property, or shares and investments, will take longer to deal with than an estate with money in one bank account.

How much does probate cost?

Application fees for probate are £155 if you apply through a solicitor and £215 if you are managing the probate process yourself. In addition, depending on your circumstances and the complicated nature of your loved one’s estate, you may choose to retain the services of a solicitor. In this case you will potentially need to pay for expensive legal fees to go through the process of probate.

What happens next?

Once you have received probate, the court will follow the rules of intestacy to decide how the inheritance is divided and given out. If the individual was part of a marriage or civil partnership, and they did not have any children, their partner will receive the inheritance. If they did have children, the court will investigate further and then decide.

Can anyone close to the deceased inherit if there is no Will?

The simple answer is no. If there is no Will, the deceased estate can only be left to a blood relation or someone who was in a legally recognised relationship like a marriage, civil relationship, or adoption.

People who cannot automatically inherit include:

  • Unmarried partners. This is regardless to the length of time you were with your partner and whether or not you had children together.
  • Relations by marriage. This includes stepchildren, parents-in-law, brothers, or sisters-in-law
  • Close friends

However, this does not mean that there is no way of contesting this. It is your right if you believe that you should be included in the Will, to make a financial claim against the estate by applying to Court.

Is a Will necessary?

Yes. If you want to ensure that upon your death, your wishes are adhered to and your loved ones have received, from your estate, everything you want them to, then you need to ensure that you have a Will in place. 

If you plan ahead, you will ensure that at an extremely difficult time, you are saving your loved ones, who are left behind, the added stress incurred by dealing with probate, and a potentially complicated and drawn-out financial process.

Speak to the Hello Estate Planning team to get your affairs in order, on 0161 6765421.