Chain of Representation in Probate Explained

15 July 2019

If the Executor of an Estate dies before they have completed Probate, their Executor can step in and complete the Estate Administration on their behalf. This is called a chain of representation. A new Grant of Probate may be required in the name of the new Executor, even when there is a chain of representation. This article explains exactly what a chain of representation is and how it works.

How Does a Chain of Representation Work?

A chain of representation in Probate is best explained with an example. Take Barry, for example. Barry makes a Will naming Mary as his Executor. When Barry dies, Mary takes on the role of Executor of Barry's Estate, takes out a Grant of Probate in her name and begins administering his Estate.

Before the Estate administration is complete, Mary passes away. In her Will she has named Tony as her Executor. Tony takes on the role of Executor and administers Mary's Estate. Under the chain of representation, Tony can also act as Executor for Barry's Estate and finish administering his Estate too.

So, what this means in practice is that Tony can finish what Mary had started, and administer Barry's Estate in line with the terms of his Will. Theoretically, Tony will only require the Grant of Probate that bears Mary's name along with the Grant of Probate that bears his own name in order to demonstrate the chain of representation and administer both Estates.

This chain can keep growing until it is broken. For example, if Tony dies before completing the Estate administration for Barry and Mary, then his Executor would take over the administration of all three Estates.

How Can a Chain of Representation be Broken?

The primary way in which a chain of representation can be broken is through the absence of a legally valid Will. If an Executor in the chain dies without a valid Will in place, then inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine who has authority to administer their Estate. This person won't have the authority to administer other Estates in the chain.

A chain of representation can also be broken if an Executor didn't obtain a Grant of Probate in their name before they died.

What if There Are Other Surviving Executors?

If an acting Executor dies and there are other Executors named in the Will, then responsibility for completing Probate will fall to them. In this situation, the chain of representation won't apply.

So, to go back to our example, say Barry's Will had named Mary and Ben as his Executors. When Mary dies, it would fall to Ben to finish administering Barry's Estate. Tony would only have responsibility for administering Mary's Estate.

How a Chain of Representation Works in Practice

In practice, the rules around Probate and Estate administration do limit the situations in which a chain of representation can be applied. It's best to seek advice from a Probate Specialist if you're unsure.

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