Missing Executor and Sole Residuary Beneficiary

I have a will where the executor and the sole residuary beneficiary is the same person who cannot be located. All I have is a name (no middle name) and an address from 1999. No date of birth or any other information is available. The name is quite a popular/common name. Of course, without probate there is no access to the funds in the estate to finance the effort to find this person. The problem is there is a leasehold property (a maisonette) where the lessees for the two units are the deceased and the owner of the upstairs property. The lessee of the other unit was in the process of selling the property when the testator died. The lease of the upstairs property needs to be extended and once completion has taken place, the freehold will need to be transferred. None of this can happen whilst the executor and beneficiary cannot be located. My firm drafted the will and I have been notified of the passing of the testator. I have to hand the certificate of fact of death. There is family, but the deceased was estranged from the family and they are not mentioned in the will. Can I apply for a grant to administer the estate and then locate the beneficiary from any funds available? If this person cannot be located, I assume the funds will then be paid into court? Any thoughts, comments or advice would be appreciated to move the matter forward.

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You apply for Grant.

Supreme Court Act 1981c. 54, Part V: Powers of court in relation to personal representatives, Section 116: Power of court to pass over prior claims to grant.


Thank you, that is really helpful. Do you know how I apply? It is to HMCTS and which form?

Last one I did was the ‘oath’ system; others will know better. I fear it will be a paper application PA1A and covering letter of application to obtain grant of letters of administration with Will.

Thank you again for all your help. It is much appreciated.

Hi Amanda,

I note John’s response; so this is potentially overtaken by events; but if you do at any later point find you need to explore tracing or research options for resolving this, you may wish to contact Finders to discuss what’s practicable.

All the best meanwhile;

Louise Levene
Finders International

Thank you, Louise. I will bear this in mind.

How to apply for a limited grant in these circumstances will be found in Tristram & Cootes, but I appreciate this may not be available to you immediately. Perhaps a case where advice from junior counsel should be considered? Not only on the possible application, but on the wider costs implications - eg how much, if any, of the costs might the Court decide are properly chargeable to the estate? Might the Court require further research - later Will? - possibility of death resulting in intestacy [albeit to estranged family]?
However, I wonder who [if anyone] is your client? Presumably not your former client who has died, nor the executor you have had no contact with. Perhaps your firm also acts for the other lessee, but if so are he/she/them aware of the potential costs/delays involved? Otherwise, what if any standing do you think you have?

It sounds like the lessee of the upstairs property is the person with an interest in progressing matters. You may want to consider with them whether they could apply for a grant ad colligenda bona so as to deal with the lease extension for the benefit of the estate while the beneficiary is traced. The process is considered in Tristam & Cootes at 25.182 etc. They would need to consider and explain how they will manage their own conflict of interest and would also need to convince the Registrar of the urgency of the situation. You will need to apply on form PA1P with suitable explanation of the circumstances and supporting witness evidence. It would be sensible to specifically ask for authority to deal with the leasehold and freehold. Your potential client should also consider how likely it is that the beneficiaries of the estate will approve of their action and costs incurred in dealing with the lease.