When a person dies, someone has to deal with their affairs. This is called ‘administering the estate’ or ‘probate’ and is commonly used when talking about applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs. The procedures that will need to be followed will depend on:
If the person who has died leaves a Will
In this case one or more ‘executors’ may be named in the Will to deal with the person’s affairs after their death. The executor applies for a ‘grant of probate’ from a section of the court knows as the Probate Registry. The grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets (property, money and possessions). They can use it to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the Will.
If the person who has died didn’t leave a Will
If there is no Will (known as dying ‘intestate’), a close relative of the deceased can apply to the Probate Registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. If the grant is given, they are known as ‘administrators’ of the estate. Like the grant of probate, the grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.
Grant of representation
This is a general term which includes grants of probate and grants of letters of administration.
When a grant is needed
A grant is almost always needed when the person who dies leaves one or more of the following:
- stocks or shares;
- certain insurance policies;
- property or land held in their own name or as ‘tenants in common’;
- more than £5,000.
When a grant may not be needed
A grant may not be needed where:
- the person who died left less than £5,000;
- they owned everything jointly with someone else and everything passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.
Executors and Administrators are together known as Personal Representatives. Depending on the value and complexity of the estate, the role of a Personal Representative can be onerous and time-consuming. Especially at a time of grief. It is therefore usual for a Personal Representative to ask a professional to deal with the day-to-day administration of the estate on their behalf, the cost of which is payable out of the estate itself.