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Missing Beneficiaries – what can I do?

Missing Beneficiaries – what can I do?

Q: My father died without a Will.  He separated from his second wife many years ago and we believe she may have gone abroad or may have even died. She is entitled to at least part of the estate, but we cannot locate her.  What can I do?

A: This is a difficult scenario. When someone dies without a Will the law provides for the estate to be distributed according to a schedule of entitled relatives. The first of those is any surviving spouse. That remains the case even though the couple may have been separated. Whilst you, as a surviving child can take out a grant of letters of administration allowing you to administer the estate, that role requires you to distribute the estate according to those rules. If you do not and your father’s wife suddenly appears, she may well be able to take proceedings against you to recover her entitlement. If you have made a distribution to yourself and maybe your siblings, you could be personally liable.

To avoid this, you need to carry out extensive searches to show the court that you have done your very best to locate the wife.  You can then make an application to the court for an order stating that the wife is presumed dead and that you have the ability to distribute the estate as if she had predeceased your father.

Contact our disputed Wills experts today

If you have concerns about how to handle an estate where a potential beneficiary is missing please contact Amanda Melton who heads up our disputed wills team and has a wealth of experience in dealing with such unusual applications.

Call us on 03456 381381 or email us at estatemanagement@ibblaw.co.uk