Q: My 32-year-old brother was involved in a bad motor accident and sadly died. Like the rest of us, at that age you don’t think about making a Will. He had a good job and owned property so it seems we will have to apply for probate. He had a girlfriend who lived with him in his house. Please can you advise us what to do?
A: As there was no Will, your brother’s estate will pass in accordance with the rules of intestacy. These rules set out who will inherit your brother’s estate and who can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration to administer his estate.
There is a strict order of priority of who is entitled to apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration. The order is the same as the order of who will benefit under the intestacy rules. If a class of beneficiaries (e.g. siblings) are benefitting under the estate, each person within that class is equally entitled to apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration. This is on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Any dispute as to who should make the application will need to be resolved by making an application to the Principal Registrar.
Once the Grant of Letters of Administration has been issued the rest of the procedure for administering your brother’s estate will be much the same as it would if he had left a Will. The Administrator will need to ensure that they are distributing the estate strictly in accordance with the intestacy rules.
Unmarried partners are not included in the list of beneficiaries who automatically inherit under the rules of intestacy. Your brother’s girlfriend would need to seek independent legal advice to determine if she has a common law interest in the property or if she would be able to make a claim against the estate. This whole situation highlights the importance of making a Will, whatever age you are.
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