It’s important to have someone you respect agree to be the executor of your will. That’s because you have an opportunity to discuss your intentions while you are alive, and make sure everything is crystal clear to them.
They may even make suggestions where you could have made things a little clearer. Two heads are always better than one when it comes to important decisions. But what happens if they die before your estate is fully wound up? That depends on when you and they die.
Scenario 1 – Your Executor Dies Before You Die
It’s important to stay in touch with your executor. That’s because if they die on you, you may not have an executor at all. This situation is easy to fix; find a new one and update your will.
You might like to appoint two executors instead, and not one so you have a backup if one dies. You could also appoint a partnership of accountants or solicitors to represent you. However, expect your estate to pay a fee.
Scenario 1 – Your Executor Dies After You Pass On
This situation very much depends on how far your probate has progressed:
1… A letter or grant is still outstanding
The Probate Court must approve the appointment of your executor before anything else can happen. In this scenario, your estate could be back to square unless you have a joint-executor to take over.
However, if they did not want to, then one of own your beneficiaries could assume responsibility to close out your estate. It would be up to your inheritors to agree to this. If they were unable to, then your married partner and close blood relatives could share your estate.
2… A letter or grant is already in place
If your deceased executor left a will themselves – and nominated an executor – then Simpson Millar say that person becomes your de facto executor too. However, they must agree, and first obtain their own grant of probate before they can proceed.
However, if your executor did not leave a will – and name an executor – then your will becomes null and void and the Probate Court will treat you as having died intestate. This means your married partner and close blood relatives share what you left behind.
The Rules of Intestacy in England and Wales
If you die without a will, or under some of the circumstances above, then your married partner and close blood relatives divide your estate between them. The Administration of Estates, 1925 lays down a strict procedure colloquially called the rules of intestacy.
These rules only recognize the rights of married partners. This mean the special person in your life could inherit nothing at all, unless your close blood relatives decide otherwise. We agree this is somewhat old-fashioned but the law is the law until it changes.
Many UK couples prefer not to marry for many different reasons. However, they have a ready-made workaround in the form of back-to-back wills, leaving everything to each other.