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Dealing with intestacy
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Home / Further Information / Probate / Dealing with intestacy

When a person dies without leaving a will they are referred to as having died “intestate”. Normally it will be necessary for someone (usually a close family member of the deceased) to apply for “letters of administration” before the deceased’s estate can be dealt with.

Who can apply for letters of administration?

Letters of administration can be applied for by the closest surviving member of the deceased in the following order:

Spouse or civil partner;

Children;

Grandchildren (if the deceased’s children died before him or her);

Parents;

Brothers and sisters;

Nieces and nephews (if the deceased’s brothers and sisters died before him or her);

Grandparents;

Uncles and aunts;

Cousins (if the deceased’s uncles and aunts died before him or her)

If there are no surviving family members the state can apply for letters of administration.

Do I need a solicitor to apply for letters of administration?

Many people choose to instruct a solicitor to apply for letters of administration on their behalf as the process can seem daunting and can be very time consuming. There is, however, nothing from stopping you from applying for letters of administration yourself. If the deceased’s estate is of high value or is complicated in any way it may, however, be sensible for you to appoint a solicitor to act for you.

You can appoint someone who isn’t a solicitor to apply for letters of administration on your behalf. Such a person is referred to as an “attorney”.

How do I apply for letters of administration?

When applying for letters of administration the first thing you will have to do is complete a probate application form and an Inheritance Tax form.

The probate application form

The probate application form is referred to as form “PA1” and can be obtained from your local Probate Registry. Alternatively a copy can be downloaded from Her Majesty’s Court Services website. The contact details for your local Probate Registry can also be found on Her Majesty’s Court Service’s website.

The Inheritance Tax forms

The type of Inheritance Tax form you will need to complete will depend upon whether Inheritance Tax is likely to be due or not. Inheritance Tax is payable when the taxable value of the deceased’s estate (after certain exemptions) exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold. The current threshold (for the 2010-2011 tax year) is £325,000.

If you do not anticipate there being any Inheritance Tax due you should complete Inheritance Tax form “IHT205”.

If you do expect Inheritance Tax to be due you should complete Inheritance Tax form “IHT400” and a “Probate summary form” known as form “IHT421”. There are some additional forms that accompany form “IHT400” and the notes which accompany form “IHT400” explain when these additional forms should be completed.

Copies of all of the forms can be obtained from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs or can be downloaded from their website.

Sending off the forms where Inheritance Tax is not payable

If you do not anticipate there being any Inheritance Tax due you should send both form “IHT205” and “PA1” to your local Probate Registry. In most cases a fee will be payable for applying for letters of administration (currently £90.00) and if a fee is payable payment should accompany the documents. No fee is payable if the deceased’s estate is worth £5,000 or less after funeral expenses and any debts have been discharged. In cases of financial hardship it may be possible to obtain a “remission” from payment.

If you have appointed an attorney to apply for the letters of administration on your behalf you should confirm in a letter signed by you that you want the attorney to apply for the letters of administration on your behalf. Your letter should accompany the forms which need to be sent to the Probate Registry.

Sending off the forms where Inheritance Tax is payable

If you do expect Inheritance Tax to be due you should send form “PA1” to your local Probate Registry and forms “IHT400” and “IHT421” to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. A fee is payable in most cases for applying for letters of administration (currently £90.00) and payment should be sent to the Probate Registry with form “PA1”. No fee is payable if the deceased’s estate is worth £5,000 or less after funeral expenses and any debts have been discharged. In cases of financial hardship it may be possible to obtain a “remission” from payment.

If you have appointed an attorney to apply for the letters of administration on your behalf you should confirm in a letter signed by you that you want the attorney to apply for the letters of administration on your behalf. Your letter should accompany the application for the letters of administration.

When completing form “IHT400 you have the option to calculate the tax payable yourself or ask Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs to work out the tax for you. If you have calculated the tax yourself you will need to obtain an Inheritance Tax reference and payslip from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. If you have asked Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs to calculate the tax for you they will do so and then tell you what is due.

Once any tax has been paid Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs will stamp and send on form “IHT421” to the Probate Registry confirming this.

Attending an interview at the Probate Registry

Within roughly 10 days of receiving the forms the Probate Registry will ask you to attend a short interview at the Probate Registry. The purpose of the interview is to confirm that the details contained in your application are correct.

Receiving the letters of administration

You should receive the letters of administration by post shortly after attending the interview.


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