Dying without a will
What happens if someone dies without a will?
If a person dies without a will, the law sets out how their property will be shared after all the debts have been paid.
The Administration Act 1903 (WA) sets out the rules about how the property is shared. The rules are complicated and change, depending on:
- the value of the estate, and
- the type and number of family members the deceased had.
De facto partners of any sex have inheritance rights under the Administration Act. You will need to establish that your relationship was a de facto relationship. If you lived as a de facto partner with the deceased for at least two years immediately before their death, you are entitled to a share in the estate in certain circumstances. If your partner dies without a will, you should seek legal advice about your rights.
Who can apply for permission to deal with the deceased's estate if there is no will?
Without a will, it can be hard to work out who should apply for permission to deal with the deceased's estate.
Generally, anyone over the age of 18 who is entitled to a share of the estate can apply to the Probate Office of the Supreme Court to administer and distribute the property. This called applying for letters of administration and gives the person authority to deal with the estate.
Normally, the married or de facto partner of the deceased (or their next of kin) should apply for letters of administration. If a person entitled to a share of the estate is not available, the court can appoint another person or body as administrator of the estate.
Applying for letters of administration is complicated and may require a lawyer.
Legal Aid WA does not help with inheritance issues including probate and letters of administration.
You may be able to get pay someone to help you apply for letters of administration by contacting:
Alternatively, the people entitled to apply for letters of administration can ask the Public Trustee to administer the estate.
Reviewed: 4 October 2022