Lawlink – Issues arise over failure to make a will

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Q: My brother recently passed away. He had been sick for some time. He was born in the UK, lived there until his early twenties, and moved back and forth between Ireland and the UK for the rest of his life. He died in the UK. He never married but has one child that he has a good relationship with (she is 18). He has some assets both in Ireland and the UK, including a home. I do not think he ever made a will, either here or in the UK. What steps can we take to secure his assets? Do the rest of the family have a share in the monies or does everything go to his daughter?

A:The first thing that the family should do is check his paperwork and see if there was ever a will made.

Most solicitors will advise clients to keep a copy of their will with other important documentation. It would also be advisable to check with solicitors that he might have had dealings with, perhaps the UK solicitors through which he purchased his property.

If he did not make a will, his estate is said to be “intestate” and his property and assets would pass according to rules set out by law.

It is possible that if the sums retained in any Irish bank accounts were low, the banks might be happy to release the funds without taking out a formal grant. This depends on the individual bank and is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. You should consult with your Irish solicitor on this point.

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If the banks are not happy to deal with matters on this basis, or if your brother owned property in Ireland, you would need to take out a Grant of Administration. This would allow a person, known as the ‘Administrator,’ to gather up the various Irish-based monies and distribute them according to law.

To answer your question, as your brother never married, any Irish asset would flow solely to his daughter.

The situation in the UK would be similar. However you should ask your Irish solicitor to consult with a UK-based solicitor. It is possible that there might be certain work that would not need to be duplicated between the Irish and UK processes – that would very much depend on where your brother was said to be domiciled.

You should also ensure that there are sufficient protections in place for your niece, and again your Irish and UK solicitors can give you and your family proper advice in this regard.