Most people who make a Will do tell the people who they name as executors what they have done. It is helpful if they also give you a copy of the Will, even if the original is stored in a safe or strong room at a solicitor or bank. However, the person who makes the Will, called ‘the testator’ is not obliged to inform their executors or ask their permission. Therefore it is possible that the first you will know is when a family member contacts you.
If the deceased did not leave a Will, it is the person or people most closely related to them who are entitled to administer the estate – though no one will have the authority to deal with the estate until someone has applied for Letters of Administration from the court.
Unlike for executors, there are strict rules about who can be an administrator. Usually it will be the closest relatives, in the following order
- the surviving spouse where the deceased was married or in a civil partnership
- children of the deceased
- surviving parents of the deceased
- surviving brothers or sisters
- nephews or nieces of the person who has died
- another relative of the deceased
If the deceased had any adopted children (or any of the other relatives are by adoption), they are in the same position as their natural children.
Being an administrator is voluntary. No-one can force you to take up the role if you don’t want to or feel unable to do so.
If you were living with the deceased as their partner, but not in a marriage or formal civil partnership, you will not usually be entitled to act as administrator.