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When a person dies, someone has to deal with their affairs. This is called ‘administering the estate’.
If the person who has died leaves a will
- If the person who has died leaves a will, it will usually name one or more people to act as the executors of the will – that is, to administer their estate.
- If you are named as an executor of a will you may need to apply for a grant of probate.
- A grant of probate is an official document which the executors may need to administer the estate. It is issued by a section of the court known as the probate registry.
If there is no will
- If there is no will (known as dying intestate) the process is more complicated. An application for a grant of letters of administration (an official document, issued by the court, which allows administrators to administer the estate) will need to be made.
- The person to whom letters of administration is granted is known as the administrator. The administrator is the person who has the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who has died, and is determined by a set order of priority.
- The administrator will usually be a close relative of the person who has died, if there is one. There may be more than one person who has an equal right to do this. Your solicitor will be able to provide you with information on the set order of priority.
Some more legal terms you may come across
Personal representatives (PRs)
This means executors or administrators. If there is more than one personal representative they must work together to decide matters between them. Disagreements between personal representatives can cause expensive delays.
Grants of representation
This includes grants of probate (when there is a will) and grants of letters of administration (when there is no will). Often people just refer to probate even if there is no will.
When a grant of representation is needed
- A grant of representation is not always needed, for example, if the person who died:
- has left less than £5,000 in total; or
- owned everything jointly with someone else.
However, some financial organisations may require a grant before giving you access even to a small amount of money. Usually, a grant of representation will be needed when the person who has died left:
- more than £5000;
- stocks or shares;
- a house or land; or
- certain insurance policies.