Administration of Estates – identifying the beneficiaries of an intestacy

There is a set order of priority of beneficiaries of an intestacy (where someone has not left a Will). There can be a partial intestacy, where someone has left a Will and failed to allow for something or more commonly a named beneficiary dies and there is no substitution, so that gift has no beneficiary, even if the rest of the Will is valid.

Dealing with an intestacy is complex, as the Administrators have to identify what living relatives there are and go through the order of priority of those living relatives. I once had a colleague who dealt with a very complex intestacy where there were around 200 beneficiaries and in the end the Administrator paid a tracing company to find them. That tracing exercise cost around £16,000, so the message would be – MAKE A WILL and save those that are left behind a lot of hassle and sometimes a huge amount of money.

I have undertaken a number of smaller traces and they can easily run into hundreds of pounds, which when making Wills I always advise my clients is hundreds of pounds that goes to some unknown tracing agent and not to friends and family. Of the traces that I have undertaken they have been around £800-1,000.

The first point is to work out if the deceased was married if the estate is worth more than £250,000. There are lots of places on the internet to find out the rules of intestacy and see who would benefit, so I won’t go into them here. Once you have checked out the rules of intestacy and worked out who should benefit from the estate, it is then a process of identifying them. This can be done with ID such as passport or driving licence, but the Administrators need to trace the ancestry, so to speak, so birth certificate will have parents on, if there have been marriages and divorces, then the marriage certificate and degree absolute will trace the name changes of the beneficiary, as well as any change of name deeds.

Overall the Administrator needs to be confident that they have correctly identified the beneficiary under the rules of intestacy. There is no clear rule about what forms of ID will suffice; it is about the Administrator being confident that they have correctly identified the right person to receive the gift.