Where there's no will, there's a problem

Our laywer, Fiona McNulty, advises on the legal issues arising when a derelict estate is inherited from a relative
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© Merrily Harpur (harpur.org)
Question: My father’s brother has a derelict house, is unlikely to have any other assets and has not made a will. My father is his sole surviving relative. If he inherits the property, will he be liable for it, or can he refuse to accept the house?

Answer: If there is no will, your father will be entitled to the entire estate if his brother dies leaving no spouse, children or remoter descendants, parents, brothers or sisters or children of any deceased brothers and sisters, and he will also be the person entitled to administer the estate.

Hopefully the value of the estate will exceed any liabilities and so will be used to pay those off. However, if your father acts as administrator and fails to ensure that the liabilities are paid in the proper order, he will incur personal liability for any outstanding debts.

If the estate is insolvent, your father, you and any other relatives may wish to renounce the right to administer the estate. Creditors of the estate can then apply to deal with the estate and obtain any monies due to them.

Any net assets will be due to your father, provided that your uncle had no brothers or sisters who died before him leaving descendants. Your father could vary the intestacy to pass his entitlement on, eg to charity, by written deed within two years of the date of death, or disclaim his entitlement.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.

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