Written by Senior Probate Solicitor Jennifer Goda, TEP
When an individual dies in England or Wales, the bank accounts, property, personal effects and investments they leave behind are generally known as their Estate. Depending on the type and value of the assets they owned, it may be necessary to obtain legal authority from the Court to be able to deal with the Estate.
This legal authority is called a Grant of Representation, and will allow whoever is dealing with the Estate to close bank accounts, cash in investments and sell or transfer property. However, the Grant of Representation itself can take different forms, depending on whether an individual dies with or without a Will, and who is applying for the Grant.
Grant of Probate
A Grant of Probate will only be issued to the Executor(s) named in the Will.
When making a Will, you should give real consideration to the appointment of your Executor(s). This should be someone you trust, and who has the capability of managing a potentially complex process that can take up to 9-12 months to complete.
Your Executor has the legal power to deal with your affairs after your death, and can start to cash in your assets and transfer them to the beneficiaries you have named in your Will. However, some financial institutions may require your Executor to obtain a Grant of Probate from the Court before releasing the funds or closing the account.
The Grant of Probate is legal confirmation from the Court that the Will is valid. Once the Grant has been issued, it means that the Will has been officially registered and the Executors named in the Will are the only ones with authority to deal with the Estate.
The financial institutions that require a Grant of Probate want to be sure that the Will is valid and the named Executors are the correct people responsible for dealing with the Estate, before any funds are released to them.
Letters of Administration
Letters of Administration are similar to a Grant of Probate, but are issued instead to the next of kin of an individual who dies without a Will.
If you have not made a Will, this means you have not appointed a specific person as your Executor to close your bank accounts, cash in any investments and so on. The authority to do this is not automatic, and it may be that your family would have to apply to the Court for Letters of Administration to confirm their entitlement to manage your Estate, if there are certain financial institutions that require this.
This can cause problems if, for example, family members cannot agree which of them would be the best person to deal with the Estate. Where there are such disputes, it is common for the Court to get involved, and the time and financial costs involved in this can be particularly detrimental. It is therefore always advisable to make a Will.
Letters of Administration might also be issued where there is a valid Will, but the Executor named in the Will is not applying for a Grant of Probate.
This could be because they do not want to act as Executor, are no longer capable of doing so, or perhaps they have already passed away. Where this is the case, it is common for one of the main beneficiaries in the Will to apply for Letters of Administration instead.
To avoid this happening, you can appoint a substitute Executor in your Will, who can step in if your main Executor is no longer able to manage your Estate.
For free initial advice and guidance call the Probate Advisory Team at Co-op Legal Services on 01618558359 or contact us online and we will help you.
With over 150 Probate Solicitors, Probate Advisors and a national team of local Probate Consultants who offer home visits, Co-op Legal Services are one of the largest providers of Probate and Estate Administration services in England and Wales.