13. Distribution of property and possessions
A. If there is a will
The dead person's property and possessions will be distributed in accordance with his or her wishes, by executors, after confirmation has been obtained, subject to payment of the "legal rights" due to his or her spouse, civil partner and children. You can read more about legal rights in Part V.
The executor should not distribute any of the estate to those entitled to it until a period of six months has passed since the date of the death. This is to allow persons or companies with a claim on the estate to make their claim known.
After that period, the executor may distribute the estate without having regard to any possible claims that he or she has not been told about. If any creditor or beneficiary presses for payment during the six month period a solicitor should be consulted.
Challenging the will
A will can be challenged on a number of grounds, for example:
- if the person was legally incapable of making the will (for instance, he or she did not understand the effects of making the will)
- if the person was improperly influenced by another person when making the will.
If you wish to challenge a will, you should consult a solicitor.
Whatever the will says, the surviving husband, wife, civil partner or children can, if they wish, claim "legal rights" from the estate. Part V explains this in more detail. If you wish to claim legal rights, you should tell the executor.
B. If there is no will
If someone dies and does not leave a will, the law says how an estate should be divided. Part V explains the way that an executor must distribute such an estate.