Property of a person who has died

Everything owned by a person who has died is known as their estate. The estate may be made up of:

  • money, both cash and money in a bank or building society account. This could include money paid out on a life insurance policy
  • money owed to the person who has died
  • shares
  • property, for example, their home
  • personal possessions, for example, their car or jewellery.

If the person who died owes money to other people, for example, on a credit card, for fuel, for rent or a mortgage, this comes out of the estate.

The estate of the person who has died is usually passed to surviving relatives and friends, either according to instructions in the will, or if the person dies without leaving a will, according to certain legal rules called the rules of intestacy.

For information about wills, see Wills.

The person dealing with the estate of the person who has died is called an executor or an administrator. An executor is someone who is named in the will as responsible for dealing with the estate. An executor may have to apply for a special legal authority before they can deal with the estate. This is called probate.

An administrator is someone who is responsible for dealing with an estate under certain circumstances, for example, if there is no will or the named executors aren’t willing to act. An administrator has to apply for letters of administration before they can deal with an estate.

Although there are some exceptions, it is usually against the law for you to start sharing out the estate or to get money from the estate, until you have probate or letters of administration.

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