Q&A - What happens if a beneficiary dies before the estate is settled?

Q:  An aunt of mine died earlier this year. In her Will she left everything to be split equally between her two daughters. Even though probate had not yet been granted, the sisters put their mother's house on the market. Before a buyer could be found and the money from the sale distributed, however, one of the sisters died. All of this has got me thinking about my own family situation and has made me wonder about a couple of points which I hope you can clarify. Firstly, is it correct that property in an estate can be sold before Probate is granted? And secondly, what happens to someone's share of an estate if they die before the Will is settled?

A:  It is not strictly necessary to apply for a Grant of Probate prior to placing a property on the market, although it is advisable to avoid delays once a sale is agreed. In the case you mention above, your aunt's surviving daughter will need to apply for the Grant alone as the sole Executrix.

Had the Grant of Probate for your Aunt already been obtained, naming the two daughters as Executrices, her surviving daughter would continue to administer the estate alone, although under some circumstances the Court may wish to appoint a co-executor to act with her.

In respect of what will now happen to the deceased sister's share of your aunt's estate, as she passed away after the death of her mother but before the estate could be wound up, the share to which she was entitled will now form part of her own estate and will eventually be distributed in accordance with her Will (or the Rules of Intestacy if she did not have a valid Will).

If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, book an appointment by visiting GHP Legal or contacting one of our offices:


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Victoria Wilson

Victoria Wilson


A Partner and Head of our Probate, Wills, Trusts and Tax team