1. If your parent dies without a will and you want to handle the probate process, first check you have standing to apply. The order of priority is:

– Husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased

– Child (all children have equal standing)

– Parent

– Brother or sister

– Grandparent

– Uncle or aunt.

2. Those with priority can then apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’.

This makes the person applying the Administrator of the estate and allows them to collect the estate assets, value them, pay any debts, including taxes and distribute the estate according to the intestacy rules.

You can try to do this yourself and use the government’s website but it is advisable to instruct a solicitor as the process is not always straightforward and any mistakes could be very costly given the Administrator could be held personally liable.

3. If you have siblings and you are the one applying, you will need to provide evidence that you have informed all of your brothers and sisters that you will be applying.

4. Up to four siblings can be appointed but bear in mind that the more people involved in the process, the higher the legal fees can be as there will be more instructions to take and more correspondence to send.

Any dispute between siblings could really ratchet up costs quite dramatically.

It is better to agree to one or two administrators at the most. If agreement cannot be reached between siblings, you will need to speak to a solicitor if you haven’t already.

5. The first step will be to try and reach an agreement via your solicitor and your siblings or their solicitor.

If this is not successful, mediation or a roundtable meeting can be facilitated by your solicitor or mediation can be arranged directly with a mediator if you do not have a solicitor.

6. If you still can’t agree, court action may be required and in line with the pre action protocol your solicitor will draft a letter before action and your siblings will have limited time to respond.

7. If no response is provided or if a response does not progress matters, your solicitor can make a court application seeking the appointment of an independent administrator or to ask for confirmation of your appointment.

8. The court will be hesitant to appoint you as administrator over siblings with equal standings unless you can provide good evidence as to why it should be you rather than your siblings.

This usually means demonstrating why they might be untrustworthy or lack the competence required to carry out the task. Ensure you keep records and save relevant correspondence if a potential dispute looks likely.

9. The cost of getting a Grant can vary a great deal depending on the size, nature and complexity of the estate.

If, however, you enter into a dispute over the estate administration and have to involve the court to resolve it, you could be looking at many thousands of pounds in extra costs in dealing with the dispute.

10. Be aware, that although the judge will often rule that legal costs are taken from the estate, this is not always the case and is at the discretion of the court.

If the court believes that one sibling has behaved particularly unreasonably during proceedings, it can order some or all of the legal costs be paid only from their share.

Behaving reasonably is the key to the prompt and cost effective administration of an estate, but of course if someone else involved is behaving unreasonably, that problem does have to be addressed, which is not always easy. Please contact us on 028 82 242 177 or email reception@jamesmcnulty.co.uk if you wish to discuss any aspect of this blog.