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Estates where there is no Will (Intestacy)

When a person dies without leaving a valid Will, their property and possessions (the Estate) must be shared out according to the Intestacy Rules.

Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the Intestacy Rules.

Where a Will is deemed to be invalid the Intestacy Rules will determine how the deceased’s property and possessions will be shared out.  This is because the Intestacy Rules apply instead of the wishes expressed in the invalid Will.

What do married partners and civil partners inherit?

The married or civil partners of a deceased person will only inherit under the Intestacy Rules if they were actually married or in a civil partnership at the date of death. This means that if you were divorced from the deceased person, or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you will not inherit under the Intestacy Rules.

Married or civil partners who have only separated informally can still inherit under the Intestacy Rules.  However, cohabiting partners who were neither married nor in a civil partnership, will not inherit any of the deceased person’s property or possessions under the Intestacy Rules.

If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £270,000 the spouse or civil partner of the deceased person will inherit:

  • all the deceased’s personal property and belongings, and
  • the first £270,000 of the Estate, and
  • half of the remaining estate.

If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the spouse or civil partner will inherit:

  • all the deceased’s personal property and belongings, and
  • the whole of the rest of the Estate.

What will children inherit?

The children of the deceased person will only inherit their property and possessions if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner. If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner, they will inherit only if the deceased person’s Estate is worth more than £270,000.

What will children inherit if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner?

If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, the children of the deceased will inherit the whole estate. This applies however much the estate is worth. If there are two or more children, the estate will be divided equally between them.

What will children inherit if there is a surviving spouse or civil partner?

If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner, a child only inherits from the Estate if the Estate is valued at over £270,000. If there are two or more children, the children will inherit in equal shares.  All the children of the parent who has died inherit equally from the Estate. This also applies where a parent has children from different relationships.

What can other close relatives inherit?

Parents, brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews of the deceased person may inherit under the Intestacy Rules depending upon:

  • whether there is a surviving spouse or civil partner
  • whether there are children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
  • in the case of nephews and nieces, whether the parent directly related to the person who has died is also dead
  • the amount of the estate.

Other relatives may have a right to inherit if the deceased person had no surviving spouse or civil partner, children, grandchildren, great grand-children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces. The order of priority amongst other relatives is as follows:-

  • grandparents
  • uncles and aunts. A cousin can inherit instead if the uncle or aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person
  • half-uncles and half-aunts. A half-cousin can inherit instead if the half-uncle or half-aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person.

Who cannot inherit?

The following people have no right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a will:

  • unmarried partners (sometimes wrongly called ‘common-law’ partners)
  • same sex partners not in a civil partnership
  • relations by marriage
  • close friends
  • carers

What is the cost of Estate administration?

Where we are instructed to apply for a Grant, collect, and then distribute assets, we anticipate this will take between 12 and 18 hours of work on average, at our current hourly rate of £260 + VAT (£312). Some of our lawyers are charged at less than this rate and some will be charged at more than this rate. 

Total costs are estimated at not less than £3,120 to £4,680 + VAT (£3744 to £5616).

The exact cost will depend on the individual circumstances of the matter. For example, if there is one beneficiary and no property, costs will be at the lower end of the range. If there are multiple beneficiaries, a property and multiple bank accounts, costs will be at the higher end.

We will handle the full process for you from start to conclusion. This quotation is for estates where:

  • There is a valid will, which is produced on instruction by the executors, and does not contain any trusts
  • The death has been registered
  • There is no more than one property, which is free of any mortgage
  • There are no more than 5 bank or building society accounts
  • The assets are held in the UK with none held in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • There are no loans or other arranged debts to settle
  • There are no other intangible assets such as shares and life policies
  • There are between 1 and 4 beneficiaries
  • There are no disputes between beneficiaries regarding the division of assets. If a dispute arises, this is likely to lead to an increase in costs
  • There is no inheritance tax payable and the executors do not need to submit a full account to HM Revenue and Customs
  • There are no claims made against the estate
  • It is not necessary to prepare and submit a formal tax return for the period of administration

Disbursements to be added to this fee:

  • Probate application fee of £155
  • Land Charges Registry bankruptcy searches (£2 per beneficiary)
  • Approximately £82 to post in The London Gazette – Protects against unexpected claims from unknown creditors (not always applied for)
  • Approximately £110 to post in a Local Newspaper – This also helps to protect against unexpected claims (not always applied for)

Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as court fees. We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure an efficient process.

Potential additional costs

  • Where the estate falls outside the scope of work set out above, there are likely to be additional costs that could range significantly depending on the estate and how it is to be dealt with. We can give you a more accurate quotation once we have more information. For example, additional costs may arise where:
    • there is no will;
    • the estate consists of various share holdings (stocks and bonds), foreign and other intangible assets; and
    • there is Inheritance Tax to pay.
  • If any additional copies of the grant are required, they will cost £1.50 each (1 per asset usually);
  • The cost of dealing with the sale or transfer of any property in the estate is not included.
  • The cost of dealing with the setting up and administration of any trusts which arise from the Will is not included.
  • The beneficiaries wish to undertake a post death variation 

How long will this take?

On average, our experience suggests that estates falling within the range set out above, are concluded within about 6 to 12 months. Typically:

  • Obtaining information to enable a Grant of Probate to be made, takes 12 to 16 weeks
  • obtaining the Grant of Probate takes 8 and 12 weeks from submission to the Probate Registry;
  • collecting assets then follows, which can take between 6 to 8 weeks; and
  • once this has been done, we can prepare estate accounts and distribute the assets. This normally takes in the order of 4 to 8 weeks. 

This timescale is on the basis that:

  • where there is a property to sell, the sale process runs in tandem with the probate administration;
  • there is no requirement to correspond with HM Revenue and Customs, other than to seek confirmation that there is no requirement to submit an income tax return; and
  • the third parties with whom the deceased dealt, correspond within a reasonable timeframe

Are Fixed Fees Available?

Sometimes executors may wish to instruct us only to obtain a Grant of probate or a Grant of letters of Administration where there is no will. We are happy to accept such instructions on the assumption that no inheritance tax is payable. Where all relevant financial information is provided to us by the Personal Representatives we will obtain the Grant for a fixed fee of £1000 + VAT (£1200) and for this sum, we will:

  • provide an initial attendance
  • consider all financial and other information provided
  • prepare the Return of Estate Information form on form IHT205 for approval and signature (but where the estate requires a full Inheritance Tax Account on form IHT400 to be prepared, which is far more complex, our fixed fee will be £2000 + VAT (£2400))
  • where a form IHT400 is required, submit this in advance of the probate application to HM Revenue and Customs
  • prepare the application for the Grant 
  • submit the documentation to the probate Registry
  • provide the Grant and office copies to the Personal Representatives 

If you require help to ascertain the date of death details of assets and liabilities, we can do this work for you, but our fixed fees will then be £2000 + VAT (£2400) where a Return of Estate Information form (IHT205) is completed and £3000 + VAT (£3600) where an Inheritance Tax account is required (form IHT400).

No other work is included within this fixed fee, leaving you free to obtain all assets, pay all liabilities and account to the beneficiaries entirely by yourself. Where you do require us to undertake additional work, it will be the subject of an entirely separate and bespoke quotation.

Disbursements with Grant only Fixed Fee Work, will comprise only the Probate application fees of £155 and the cost of any Office Copy Grants you may require at the rate of £1.50 per copy.