Q&A - Who can deal with estate if sole executor and beneficiary dies?

Q.     We lost my aunt to covid at Christmas. She left a homemade will appointing my mother as her sole executor and beneficiary. Due to her ill health, I assisted my mother in administering the estate. Unfortunately, before she could benefit from the estate, my mother also passed away. My aunt owned a property which must now be sold, but who can deal with my aunt’s estate now that my mother has passed away?

A.     So sorry to hear that you lost both your aunt and mother to covid. As your mother survived your aunt, who can now deal with your aunt’s estate depends upon whether your mother proved your aunt’s will and whether she herself left a will. If it is the case that she did both things, then your mother’s executors become entitled to administer your aunt’s estate through the chain of representation.

If your mother left a will but did not prove your aunt’s will, then your mother’s executors will need to apply for a grant of probate to aunt’s estate before they can act, as the chain is otherwise in abeyance. If your mother’s executors do not wish to perpetuate the chain, then they can renounce probate. However, they can still make an application for a grant of letters of administration (with will annexed) to your aunt’s estate as your mother was the sole residuary beneficiary.

If your mother did not leave a will, then the chain is broken and the Rules of Intestacy will determine who can take out a Grant of Letters of Administration to her estate, and who will in turn be entitled to take out a Grant to your aunt’s estate.

Your case highlights the danger of preparing so called “homemade wills” and the need to take professional advice. Despite your aunt’s best intentions, such complications could have been avoided if she had appointed more than one executor.

Article 06/08/2021

This question has been answered by Victoria Wilson, a Partner with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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Victoria Wilson

Victoria Wilson


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