This is the story of Rose Green’s friend Martha and her uncle’s estate.
Martha has come to see Stephen Sampson, a solicitor at Rita Sen Solicitors. She tells Stephen that she has been trying to sort out the estate of her late Uncle Albert. It all seemed very complicated and her friend, Rose Green, had suggested she see Stephen.
She says that Albert was a bachelor who never had children, as far as she knows. She also confirms that Albert had two siblings, Martha’s mother, Jane and a brother, Philip. Unfortunately, Jane died shortly after Martha was born and Martha was brought up by her father. She had not had as much contact with her mother’s family as she would have wished.
Only recently had she come to learn that Uncle Albert was living in a house just a few miles away from her own home and she had begun to visit him on a regular basis. Her Uncle did not seem to have any other visitors and although he spoke to his neighbours if he saw them, he did not appear to have any real friends. When he died she discovered that he had not left a Will.
To make sure that he has all the information available, Stephen confirms with Martha that both of her grandparents, Albert’s parents have died. Martha confirms that this is so, but she is unable to say whether her Uncle Philip has also passed away, indeed she knows very little of her Uncle Philip at all.
Martha explains to Stephen, from what Albert had told her whilst he was still alive, that Philip was a rather religious person who had gone to work for an evangelical charity, originally in India, but subsequently in other countries in South East Asia. Albert told Martha that with communications being somewhat less efficient or affordable than they are now he had lost contact with his brother and did not know whether Philip was dead or alive.
Martha had managed to get in touch with the charity concerned, and they told her that Philip had left their employment many years ago. Apparently he had intended to set up home in one of the Asian countries in which he worked, though they were unsure which. They did say, so far as they were aware, Philip had never married while he worked for them and they did not believe that he had any children. In their records Albert was shown as Philip’s next of kin in case of emergency, although the address they had for Albert was not where he had been living when died, confirming that their records were not up to date..
Martha had also checked to make sure that Philip’s death had not been registered in the United Kingdom. There was no record of this.
Stephen explained to Martha that Albert’s estate raised two questions. The first was who should be responsible for administering it, collecting in the assets and paying any debts that Albert might have had before distributing any balance to those entitled. If he were alive, Philip, as the closest relative, would be entitled to take on this role. In the absence of any clear information as to whether Philip was alive, or not, however it was possible to apply to the Probate Registry to pass over Philip and allow the “next in line” to apply to be Administrator of the Estate. This would be Martha.
The second question was who would be entitled to the benefit of the estate. Stephen told Martha that this would require some further investigation, but he suggested in the first instance that they obtain something called a Grant of Letters of Administration in Martha’s favour. This will be her authority to administer the estate. It would be necessary to explain to the Probate Registry the family circumstances and to ask the Registrar to pass over Philip in favour of Martha.
Stephen and Martha agreed that Stephen would draw up the necessary papers and Martha was able to provide Stephen with a list of the assets contained in the estate from information that Albert had given to her before he died and papers that were at his house. She was also able to give Stephen a copy of the undertaker’s bill and said that she believed that Albert did not have any other debts as he lived very frugally. Stephen promised that he would be in touch with Martha as soon as he had been able to draw up the necessary papers.